The polar regions of Titan’s surface are marked by the presence of large lakes (lacus) and seas (mares) likely composed largely of some mixture of ethane and methane.  I am working to understand how to apply existing empirical relationships in terrestrial fluid dynamics and geomorphology to understanding how this extreme (low-density, low-gravity, low-temperature) environment is formed and changes over time.



δ37 Chlorine measurements of lunar apatite are larger than the rest of the solar system combined and varies widely from Earth’s. In addition, high chlorine abundance trends with high levels of δ37 Cl and the D/H ratio appears decoupled from δ37 Cl. However, if the moon had large-scale magmatism early in its formation, it could have degassed lighter chlorine species and concentrated the remaining chlorine in the crystallizing basalt and creating a reservoir of unusually high δ37 Cl. To test this hypothesis, we examined basalts from the asteroid 4Vesta (eucrites), which is another small body that should have undergone an analogous formation process with little subsequent tectonic activity. From this, we found a comparable fractionation of chlorine.

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A coronal mass ejection is an enormous expulsion of plasma from the surface of the sun, carried away by a magnetic flux rope. Once a CME has left the surface of the sun, it resembles an enormous light bulb in the coronagraph. The bright core of the CME was previously accepted to be evidence of a large bundle of superhot plasma (the eruptive filament) within its center. However, a thorough survey of these eruptive filaments during and after launch often shares very little geometrically and geographically with the final observed bright core. Some CMEs with a bright core in the coronagraph did not even appear to have an eruptive filament before takeoff! From this, we believe that the resulting bright core may actually be a manifestation of a mathematical caustic caused by the geometric projection of the twisting flux rope onto itself.

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Interplanetary Field Enhancements (IFEs) were first discovered by Russell et al. in 1982. They are characterized by a large, local intensification in the magnetic field intensity as well as a sharp current sheet centered at the peak. Early study of these solar wind oddities revealed an association in their production and the passage of asteroids, which implied that they may an expression of a perturbed IMF created by large, charged dust clouds acting as an obstacle to the supersonic plasma flow.


Credit: U. Schneck

Undergraduate Honor’s Thesis: Stopping a Charging Elephant: The Formation and Fate of  Interplanetary Magnetic Field Enhancements.