Welcome to Universe Playpen!

Greetings, Earthlings!

I'm your host, Caitlin Ahrens, from the University of Arkansas W.M. Keck Laboratory for Space Simulations! Thought I would start off the first blog explaining a little bit about what we do here in the lab. 

We are a doctoral program housing about 10 graduate students, each with a variety of backgrounds from astrophysics to geology to biology and climatology. We are able to combine these backgrounds for our research. Each student is working on something different, even if using the same instrument. Our lab is known in the planetary community as having "planetary simulators." These are large metal containment systems for simulating different planetary bodies! We have 5 chambers currently: 2 Mars, Titan, Venus, and Pluto. The picture shown is a sneak preview of the chamber I manage- the Pluto Simulation Chamber! The chamber is about 1.5 feet round and almost 2 feet in depth. To simulate Pluto- we need this chamber to be near-vacuum (almost pressure-less) and at a temperature of nearly -369°F!!!

The Pluto Simulation Chamber still under maintenance. 

The Pluto Simulation Chamber still under maintenance. 

Tune in next week when I talk about what kind of science the Pluto chamber is being used for!

Caitlin Ahrens