The Winter 2020 UCLA Planetary Science Seminar Guest Speaker Schedule

Fridays from 12 – 1 PM in UCLA’s Geology Building (Room 3-853) unless otherwise specified here:

Jan. 10, 2020: David Page (UCLA) – Snowball Mars

Abstract: TBA

Jan. 17, 2020: Max Guenther (MIT) – Stellar Flares and Habitable (?) M-dwarf Worlds with TESS

Abstract: Finding and characterizing small exoplanets transiting small stars naturally poses the question of their habitability. A major contributing factor to this might be stellar flares, originating from powerful magnetic reconnection events on the star. While too powerful flaring can erode or sterilize exoplanets’ atmospheres and diminish their habitability, a minimum flare frequency and energy might be required for the genesis of life around M-dwarfs in first place. Here, I will first highlight our TESS study of stellar flares and our search for exoplanets transiting these stars, linking our findings to prebiotic chemistry and ozone sterilization. We already identified thousands of flaring stars, including many young, rapidly rotating M-dwarfs, some showing superflares with over 30x brightness increase in white light. Further, I will discuss a particularly interesting, newly discovered system: a super-Earth and two sub-Neptunes transiting the bright and nearby M-dwarf TOI-270, which is optimally suited to study the ‘missing link’ between planets on either side of the radius gap. With upcoming TESS sectors, stellar flare studies and new exoplanet discoveries will ultimately aid in defining criteria for exoplanet habitability.

Jan. 24, 2020: Kathryn Stack-Morgan (JPL) – Mars 2020

Abstract: TBA

Jan. 31, 2020: Yinjuan Ma (UCLA) – Maven Results

Abstract: TBA

Feb. 07, 2020: TBD – TBD

Abstract: TBD

Feb. 14, 2020: Siyi Xu (Gemini Observatory) – Exoplanets

Abstract: TBA

Feb. 21, 2020: Ariel Graykowski and Francisco Spaulding-Astudillo (UCLA) – Student Talks

Abstract(s): Both TBA

Feb. 28, 2020: James Owen (Imperial College, London) – Exoplanets

Abstract: TBA

Mar. 06, 2020: Taylor Dorn and Dave Milewski (UCLA) – Student Talks

Abstract(s): Both TBA

Mar. 13, 2020: LPSC Roundup

Abstract(s): TBA

November 30, 2018: History Of The Solar Nebula And Planet Formation From Paleomagnetic Measurements Of Meteorites

Talk Title: History Of The Solar Nebula And Planet Formation From Paleomagnetic Measurements Of Meteorites


History of the solar nebula and planet formation from paleomagnetic measurements of meteorites A key stage in the formation of planetary systems is the formation of a protoplanetary disk containing a gaseous nebula. Theoretical studies suggest that magnetic fields mediated the global evolution of protoplanetary disks by transporting angular momentum and driving disk accretion. However, the nature and history of nebular magnetic fields have been poorly constrained. Here I review recent advances in our understanding of the magnetism of the solar nebula as inferred from meteorites. I discuss the implications of these measurements for the mechanism and rate of planetary accretion, the formation the first solids, the dispersal time of the nebula, and the formation mechanisms of giant planets.

November 09, 2018: Earth Impacting Debris From Comets And Asteroids

Talk Title: Earth Impacting Debris From Comets And Asteroids


The results from ongoing surveys are described that have mapped out our annual meteor showers. Data can now be accessed online in near-real time, facilitating the monitoring of unusual meteor shower activity. Comets dominate the influx at meteoroid sizes < 10 cm. Above 10 cm, meteors are mostly from debris of asteroid collisions. Those meteoroid streams manifest on Earth very differently. So far, 36 meteorite falls have been observed by cameras, providing a first glimpse into where in the asteroid belt the collisions occurred that are producing our meteorites. A recent fall over Botswana resulted in the recovery of material from asteroid 2018 LA. Since early 2017, a new instrument on the GOES-16 and GOES-17 weather satellites is providing position and light curve data for bolides that occur over the Americas.

November 02, 2018: Beyond Images: Getting Deeper Information From Terrestrial And Planetary Radar Sounding

Talk Title: Beyond Images: Getting Deeper Information From Terrestrial And Planetary Radar Sounding


Radio echo sounding is a uniquely powerful geophysical technique for studying the interior of ice sheets, glaciers, and icy planetary bodies. It can provide broad coverage and deep penetration as well as interpretable ice thickness, basal topography, and englacial radio stratigraphy. However, despite the long tradition of glaciological interpretation of radar images, quantitative analyses of radar sounding data are rare and face several technical challenges. These include attenuation uncertainty from unknown ice temperature and chemistry, clutter and losses from surface and volume scattering, and a lack of problem-specific radar theory. However, there is rich, often underexploited, information in modern radar sounding data, which is being collected over terrestrial and planetary ice at an unprecedented rate. The development and application of hypothesis-driven analysis approaches for these data can place observational constraints on the morphologic, hydrologic, geologic, mechanical, thermal, and oceanographic configurations of ice sheets and glaciers. These boundary conditions – and the physical processes which they express and control – are filling a fundamental gap our ability to understand the evolution of both marine ice sheets and icy moons. These include the subglacial hydrology of marine ice sheets and the thermophysical structure of planetary ice shells.

October 19, 2018: Triggered Star Formation Inside The Shell Of A Wolf-Rayet Bubble As The Origin Of The Solar System

Talk Title: Triggered Star Formation Inside The Shell Of A Wolf-Rayet Bubble As The Origin Of The Solar System


A critical constraint on solar system formation is the high 26Al/27Al abundance ratio of 5 x 10-5 at the time of formation, which was about 17 times higher than the average Galactic ratio, while the 60Fe/56Fe value was about 2 x 10-8, lower than the Galactic value of 3 x 10-7. This challenges the assumption that a nearby supernova was responsible for the injection of these short-lived radionuclides into the early solar system. We show that this conundrum can be resolved if the Solar System was formed by triggered star formation at the edge of a Wolf-Rayet (W-R) bubble. Aluminium-26 is produced during the evolution of the massive star, released in the wind during the W-R phase, and condenses into dust grains (that have been observed around W-R stars in IR observations). The dust grains survive passage through the reverse shock and the low density shocked wind, reach the dense shell swept-up by the bubble, detach from the decelerated wind and are injected into the shell. The dust grains will be destroyed by grain evaporation or non-thermal sputtering, releasing the 26Al into the shell. Some portions of this shell subsequently collapse due to triggering by shock and ionization fronts, as is frequently observed in wind blown bubbles. This will form the dense cores that give rise to solar-type systems. The W-R star will either collapse directly to a black hole, as in some models, or give rise to a supernova explosion. Even if the latter, the aspherical supernova does not inject appreciable amounts of 60Fe into the proto-solar-system, thus accounting for the observed low abundance of 60Fe. We discuss the details of various processes within the model using numerical simulations, as well as nucleosynthesis modelling, and analytic and semi-analytic calculations. We conclude that it is a viable model that can explain the initial abundances of 26Al and 60Fe, as well as other short-lived radionuclides. We estimate that 1%–16% of all Sun-like stars could have formed in such a setting of triggered star formation in the shell of a W–R bubble.

October 12, 2018: 50th Division For Planetary Sciences Meeting Practice Talks

Practice Talks for the upcoming DPS meeting. Presentations given by:
Ariel Graykowski: Fragmenting Comet 73P
Man-To Hui: Ultra-Distant Activity in Comet C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS)
Dave Milewski: Continuous Monitoring of Active Asteroid P/2016 G1 (Pan-STARRS)
Ariel Graykowski
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 is a Jupiter-family comet that has been observed to fragment on several occasions since 2005. Fragment C (73P-C) is believed to be the primary component of the nucleus. Knowing the nucleus rotation period is important because it can provide invaluable clues about the mechanism responsible for the breakup of this comet. Unfortunately, studies of 73P-C using a variety of techniques have reported rotational periods that range over an order of magnitude, from about 2.8 to 27.2 hours. The lower end of the reported range is compatible with rotational breakup of a low strength nucleus whereas the higher end would rule that possibility out completely. We have undertaken a systematic analysis of unpublished archival Hubble Space Telescope data from 2006 April in order to determine the rotation period and to assess other aspects of 73P-C. We find strong, cyclic photometric variations of about 0.4 magnitudes in the central light from this object. Similar variations with a smaller range are apparent in the surrounding dust coma, compatible with rotational modulation of the mass loss rate. I will discuss our measurements and inferences.
Man-To Hui
C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS; hereafter “K2”) is an inbound Oort cloud comet exhibiting activity at least from 23.7 AU, a record heliocentric distance. We are studying the development of the activity using the Hubble Space Telescope and data scoured from the electronic archives. Our HST observations since 2017 June reveal a circularly symmetric dust coma ~10^5 km in radius, with a total effective cross-section ~10^5 {\textrm{km}^2}. The coma logarithmic surface brightness gradient is -1.01±0.01, consistent with the value expected for steady-state mass loss. The absence of a radiation-pressure caused tail suggests that the average ejected dust size is very large. Our Monte Carlo simulations indicate a mean dust diameter of ~1 mm, and an ejection speed of only a few m/s. We estimate the nucleus to be several kilometers in radius. Activity in K2, which we find is losing mass at ~10^2 kg/s, cannot be driven by the sublimation or crystallization of water ice. Instead, the sublimation of supervolatiles including CO and CO2 is suspected. Our numerical integrations show that the previous perihelion occurred >1 Myr ago, and therefore no heat from the prior orbit can be retained. Continuing observations will probe the development of activity as K2 approaches the Sun.
Dave Milewski
We present a study of active asteroid P/2016 G1 (Pan-STARRS) (‘G1’) conducted between 2016 April and August. Our ground-based data were augmented by archival Hubble Space Telescope data as well as follow-up monitoring after G1 passed perihelion on UT 26 January 2017. The active asteroids are a subset of main belt asteroids that share the dynamical properties of asteroids but also the physical properties of comets such as the appearance of dust tails. By the use of the Jeanne Rich Centurion 28 0.7-m Telescope, the Keck-I 10-m telescope, and HST, data were obtained on 11 different epochs. We find that 1) G1’s apparent R-band magnitude faded from ∼17.8 to ∼19.6 over a period of three months and steeply dropped between UT 2016 June and UT 2016 August, 2) the absolute magnitude (assuming a phase function β = 0.02 magnitudes per degree) varied from 14.7 ± 0.09 on UT 17 April 2016 to 15.9 ± 0.02 in our last useful observation on UT 2016 August 03, 3) our photometry suggests that about 107 kg dust was ejected, and 4) the likely mechanism of activation remains impact, as suggested earlier by Moreno et al.

October 05, 2018: Ceres After Dawn: Impressions of a Dwarf Planet

Talk Title: Ceres After Dawn: Impressions of a Dwarf Planet


As we approach the end of Dawn’s 11 year mission to explore the uncharted worlds of the asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres, join me in reflection of this overachieving spacecraft’s monumental legacy at Ceres. In the past three and a half years at Ceres, Dawn has observed anomalous ammonium, vexatious volcanoes, wandering water ice, freaky flows, effervescent evaporites, capricious carbon, and many more peculiarities. As your guide to Dawn’s extraordinary observations of Ceres, I will take you on a journey to explore strange new landscapes and geology. To uncover new chemistry and new cerean paradigms. To boldly go where no spacecraft has gone before.