March 2016 to Present, RAS Research Fellow, The Open University, UK - Conducting a project entitled "Probing Solar System Processes Using Extreme Asteroids"
May 2015 to February 2016, PDRA, The Open University, UK
January 2014 to April 2015, PDRA Planetary Remote Sensing, University of Tennesse, USA
January 2011 to December 2013, PDRA Planetary Thermal Modelling, The Open University, UK
My research focuses on the physical and dynamical characterisation of atmosphereless planetary surfaces (e.g. the Moon) and small Solar System bodies (e.g. asteroids and comets) through analysis of ground- and space-based observations, spacecraft data, computer modelling, and microgravity experiments.
I am a collaborator for NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, and have developed the asteroid thermal model to be utilised by the mission.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Co-investigator||01/Apr/2017||31/Aug/2020||STFC Science & Technology Facilities Council|
Our proposed research programme addresses the origin and evolution of the Solar System, including surfaces, atmospheres and physical, geological, chemical and biological processes on the terrestrial planets, the Moon, asteroids, comets, icy satellites and extraterrestrial materials, in a range of projects which address the STFC Science Roadmap challenge B: “How do stars and planetary systems develop and is life unique to our planet?” The inner rocky bodies of the Solar System are of particular importance in understanding planetary system evolution, because of their common origin but subsequent divergent histories. Lunar samples will be used to determine the abundance and composition of volatile elements on the Moon, their source(s) in the lunar interior, and processes influencing their evolution over lunar geological history. Oxygen isotope analysis will be used to determine the conditions and processes that shape the formation of materials during the earliest stages of Solar System formation. Mars is the focus of international Solar System exploration programmes, with the ultimate aim of Mars Sample Return. We will: investigate the martian water cycle on global and local scales through a synthesis of atmospheric modeling, space mission data and surface geology; assess potential changes in the composition of Mars’ atmosphere over time through measurement of tracers trapped in martian meteorites of different ages; and determine whether carbon dioxide, rather than water flow, is able to account for recently active surface features on Mars. Mercury is an end-member in the planet-formation spectrum and we plan to exploit NASA MESSENGER data to study its origin and crustal evolution, and prepare for ESA’s BepiColombo mission. The cold outer regions of the Solar System, and particularly comets, are believed to have retained some of the most pristine primitive material from their formation. We plan to probe the composition and origins of cometary material and understand the processes that drive cometary activity through: laboratory analysis of the most primitive Interplanetary Dust Particles; and direct measurements of a comet by our instruments on the Rosetta mission, together with laboratory simulations. We will conduct laboratory ultraviolet observations of irradiated ices to provide new insights into the composition of Solar System ices and how they may create atmospheres around their parent bodies. We will also investigate the role volatiles can play in the cohesion (“making”) of Solar System minor bodies, and the fragmentation that can be achieved by thermal cycling (a candidate process that “breaks” them). The question of whether Earth is a unique location for life in the Solar System remains one of the most enduring questions of our time. We plan to investigate how the geochemistry of potentially habitable environments on Mars, Europa and Enceladus would change over geological timescales if life was present, producing distinguishable biomarkers that could be used as evidence of life in the Solar System. We will study the role of hypervelocity impacts in: the processing of compounds of critical interest to habitability (water, sulfur-species, organic species) during crater formation; and the hydrothermal system of the 100 km diameter Manicouagan impact structure in Canada to assess the astrobiological implications of hydrothermal systems for early Mars. In addition to satisfying humanity’s innate desire to explore and understand the Universe around us, our research has more tangible benefits. We use the analytical techniques involved from development of space and laboratory instrumentation for applications with companies in fields as diverse as medicine, security, tourism and cosmetics. One of the most important benefits of our research is that it helps to train and inspire students - the next generation of scientists and engineers – through training within the University and public outreach and schools programmes.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Co-investigator||01/Nov/2015||31/Mar/2016||UKSA UK Space Agency|
What is microgravity? Why do scientists use it? Our overarching aim is to produce a series of short, humorous and factual videos, called "60 Second Adventures in Microgravity", aimed at a broad audience of children and adults, to enable them to understand why the UK is involved in microgravity research, what UK scientists do in microgravity research, and how this work benefits our everyday lives. The proposal is based on the OU 60 seconds series, produced by applicant Catherine Chambers, which has covered a number of subject areas. The series started with series of outstandingly successful animated short-form videos for the web - on the history of English, narrated by Clive Anderson, e.g. http://youtu.be/r9Tfbeqyu2U (600,000 hits on YouTube). This was followed by Sixty Second Adventures in Thought (see stills in additional material), narrated by the comedian David Mitchell, covering philosophical topics (see e.g. http://youtu.be/skM37PcZmWE, over 30,000 hits in just one month). Theseave more than three million views in total to date. More recently, this was extended to astronomy, planetary science and particle physics, again narrated by David Mitchell and funded by STFC. This work will build on this successful formula to generate a novel Sixty Second Adventures in Microgravity, promoting the interests of UKSA and the UK ELIPS scientific community to the general public. The remaining 3 applicants BR, SG and HJF all are involved in current ELIPS research projects. We propose to produce 4 episodes; Microgravity - what is it?: This first video will aim to explain to the audience, what microgravity is - starting from a sketch of the Earth with a cable going to a big switch, and flicking the switch (to switch gravity off) which makes everybody / everything float away. Obviously we cannot turn gravity off, but we need to recreate conditions of "free-fall" so that from the frame of reference within the "microgravity" environment can be recreated. The video will explain the ways we can do this, focusing on ground-based microgravity platforms. Parabolic Flights: fancy getting sick whilst doing your science? Hurtling towards the Earth in an aeroplane? That's what OU scientists do...How do we build planets? Scientists don't know, but they test how the building blocks of Solar systems form by having a great big, slow-motion snowball fight - OK not really - but they use microgravity platforms to collide ice particles with each other. These ELIPS based experiments show that "traffic jam" effects are more important in planet-forming disks than collisions themselves. This will be the one video based on existing OU expertise in ELIPS research. Understanding the aging population: Bed-rest is another way to exploit the "microgravity environment". Imagine sleeping almost upside down for 6 months and being paid for it... luxury - but why do scientists want people to do that? With an ever aging population, issues of poor blood circulation, osteoporosis and muscle wasting are important to understand so that we can maintain the health and wellbeing of the older generation (as well as medical rehabilitation patients e.g. long-term injury patients such as car-crash victims or members of the armed services). Cell Biology: Space might not be the first place to think about biology - given that it's a vast empty expanse of vacuum, and it's still not clear where life originates. But microgravity research shows us cells are pretty clever - they realise in microgravity there isn't an up or down, they change on a molecular level to adapt to the microgravity environment. The basic signalling systems in cell biology are the same systems that result in muscle degradation and cell changes in microgravity environments. And when one tests the resilience of microbes to the space environments - only those with certain genes and protein sequences survive...a kind of survival of the space fittest? And a clue where we come from? Perhaps.
|Role||Start date||End date||Funding source|
|Lead||01/Oct/2015||30/Sep/2018||Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)|
This is a bid by Ben Rozitis (currently a visiting Researcher and due to return to the OU next year as a named postdoc on the DPS consolidated grant (Project T)). Forms entered by Simon Green as academic contact at the OU. The proposed fellowship project is a theoretical and observational study of Unusual near-Earth Asteroids (similar to the proposed ERF case that was not shortlisted for the OU quota).