Yesterday I received this email from my boss:
“here’s the powerpoint from today’s telecon, shows which orbits they used from our new target (the ones in red are not used).
The J is for Jack. There’s nothing cool about it until you know more information. First what is contained in the Powerpoint
- Kasei Valles (new target)
- Priority 1:
- 9512 roll
- Priority 2:
- 9525 roll
What you see is a list of 4 observations that will be made in the next orbits of a satellite around Mars. What’s cool is that I chose a new object (system of objects) and the orbits to observe them. Of my initial 6, 4 were deemed worthy by the team of scientists. The two red ones have instrumental conflicts with other pieces of equipment and will have to be taken at some other time. The two black ones though: 9492 and 9525 will be done. What doest this mean? That means there will be something about Mars that no one else in the world knows. I’ll be the first person to analyze this section which about the size of Colorado or double that of England! I’m pretty excited about it.
The instrument I’m using and that my boss is a team member of is SHARAD, and it’s on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter along with a lot of other equipment. SHARAD means Shallow Subsurface Radar. It is basically ground and ice penetrating Radar that we’re using to look for sedimental layers of ice or deposit. Usually we look at the poles where there is a lot of ice and lots of information to be had. Since that project is going and has been going for a long time I wanted to start with something new. There is a valley called Kasei Valles, dry now but once it had lots of water flowing through it, around 30deg North that hadn’t been observed. You should check out the link.
Here is an elevation map of that are with boxes approximately near where we’ll be looking. We’re looking in the darker green area just and east of the boxes.
I’m going into a lot of detail for something we only know a little about. What I hope to find there is ice below the surface or evidence of river deposits as it flowed millions of years ago. Ice is less likely since this part of Mars doesn’t stay especially cold, but it is possible below a certain depth due to higher pressure from the ground above. It may be too deep for the Radar, but we’ll see soon.
Anyway, this is the kind of thing I’ll be doing for my Doctoral Thesis. It will take me several years of analysis and learning to even attempt a dissertation, but this is a good start. I think it’s “way cool”