Happy Memorial Day!

Spectroscopy of rocks is like taking a picture of the rock and shown what minerals and chemicals the rock is made up of. In this case, we call it “mineral spectroscopy.” Several instruments have been used in numerous planetary missions to take such pictures of planetary surfaces that scientists would then pull apart wavelength by wavelength to determine what minerals and elements we would potentially be looking at!

Some spectrometers detect neutrons from the collision of cosmic rays with the minerals, like the Neutron Spectrometer onboard MESSENGER (Mercury). Some spectrometers look at multiple ranges from visible to x-ray wavelengths of the surface, such as the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M-cube) onboard the Chandrayaan-1. The common mineral spectrometer used is mainly in the infrared range, like the Ralph-LEISA instrument on the New Horizons for Pluto or the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) on the Mars Global Surveyor.

A few years ago, I used to work with the Astrogeology Team in Flagstaff Arizona looking at TES data on Mars to relate mineralogy on Martian dunes. Today I still dabble with the data for fun, but for about two years I looked at numerous infrared readings of minerals of the Martian surface.

GOOD NEWS! The Pluto Simulation Chamber is up and running finally! After 8 months of pacing and waiting and constant collaboration AND missing-part ordering, the chamber can now reach 40 Kelvin temperatures (-387.67°F) and about 14 micro bar pressure! Keep a watch on this blog when I'll update on the chamber through the year! 

The completed Pluto Chamber setup at the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Planetary Simulations at the University of Arkansas.

The completed Pluto Chamber setup at the W.M. Keck Laboratory for Planetary Simulations at the University of Arkansas.

Did you know- Next time you look up at the moon and see the darker patches, called Maria, note that these areas are dark lowlands of solidified lava plains!

Tune in next week when I talk about Martian Dunes!