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May 11 / Peter Polito

The Science of Solar System Ices

This past week I was at a workshop organized by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) called the “Science of Solar System Ices: A Cross-Disciplinary Workshop.” The idea of this conference was get everyone that works on extra-terrestrial ices in the same room, at the same time, to talk about their work and how people with different expertise may help them. So why was I, a lowly grad student, in attendance? I was riding the coattails of Dr. Geoff Collins and Dr. Leonard Sklar, the PI on my research grant and adviser respectively, we presented our work in poster form and with a talk, which can be seen here (Warning: shameless self-promotion).

It truly was an eye-opening experience for me, I thought I had a pretty good handle on ice with the research I have been working on, but I discovered that I don’t know a thing about it! Here are a few of the highlights:
Donald Blankenship from the University of Texas is collecting high resolution radar data from Antarctica. The work he is doing is to better understand how the surfaces of Ganameyde and Calisto function by better understanding terrestrial processes (similar to what we’re doing with Titan channels. Should an orbiter be sent to either of these moons, a similar radar system will probably be used. I wish I had some of the images to show you

The other guy was Christophe Sotin from JPL, he is a member of the Cassini mission team and has been doing experiments on methane infiltration and interior processes of icy satellites, including Titan. He was a huge help to me in understanding Titan processes and his model for “cyrogenic” convection was quite spectacular (at least the 10% I could actually understand).

It was an incredible experience to be a fly on the wall during the two days I was there. I learned an incredible amount in fields I had previously known nothing about and met so many people who just wanted to talk ice and science . . . it was a dream come true!

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