Research into planetary formation at Bristol

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Earth Sciences

Abstract

The work will address two key aspects of planetary science in two separate projects.

The first project is an investigation of how the Moon formed. The best current idea is that the Moon was created by a giant impact between a massive protoplanet and the young Earth. The problem is that this leads to predictions for the chemical makeup of the Moon that differ from what we measure. Alternative impact scenarios exist, and the key to choosing between them is good measurements of the mix of elements (and different isotopes of those elements) on the Moon. This project will make a far more precise set of measurements of moon rocks than has been possible in the past, with the expectation of being able to choose one model over another.

The second project involves using new data from the Cassini spacecraft to investigate the atmosphere of Saturn's giant moon, Titan. The project will determine how Titan's climate system operates
and how the atmosphere redistributes solar energy over two of Titan's 7.5 Earth-year long seasons. Titan is one of only four terrestrial planets with atmospheres in our Solar System and provides unique insight into how planetary atmospheres operate under extreme conditions.

Planned Impact

Direct beneficiaries from the research will be our academic colleagues and interested members of the public, who will be exposed to the research results through our lectures, talks in schools, podcasts, press releases, WWW pages, appearances on radio and TV, and exhibits in and around Bristol. More indirectly, the public may be affected by advice given to local MPs (Stephen Williams, Liam Fox) or City Councillors.

Commercial benefits have already been had from the Isotope Group's research (via projects with Shell). Spin-offs from the instrumentation development in the isotope work have benefitted Thermo-Fisher

Finally, the major economic output of this work will continue to be trained PhDs and PDRAs who mostly go into non- academic areas for their later careers. These careers have included local Government, the defense and security sector, plasma fusion research, meteorology, teaching, and finance..
 
Title Work with artist Matthew C. Wilson 
Description Along the lines of the theme of the consortium, Matthew and I formulated a project based on the concept of habitable other Earth's. We conducted experiments to simulate to the interior of an Earth-twin exoplanet saturated in carbonic acid. The starting mix was based on a model for the composition of the 'rocky' part of the Earth, known as 'pyrolite'. Pyrolite is a useful model for the composition of the Earth at depths of hundreds of kilometres. As such, this composition allows us to explore, through high pressure and high temperature experiments, the interior of an Earth-like exoplanet. In contrast to the Earth, however, we modified this pyrolite model so that it was saturated in carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is formed by the reaction of H2O with CO2 (water with carbon dioxide). On the surface of the Earth, water dissolves small amounts of carbon dioxide; surface water is very weak carbonic acid. Industrially elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase water acidity, which has severe effects on marine ecosystems. We are literally acidifying the planet we live on. Our model exoplanet explores an extreme outcome of this: an Earth-like planet catastrophically altered by millennia of industrialisation, and saturated in carbonic acid. The starting mix was prepared by combining powdered oxides, hydroxides and carbonates of various elements. Small amounts of this mix were packed into platinum capsules which were then welded shut. Experiments were performed using a piston-cylinder apparatus at pressures of 2 GPa (approximately 20,000 times atmospheric pressure, equivalent to a depth of approximately 65 km). One experiment was run at 1000 degrees C, and one at 1400 degrees C, both for 48 hours to allow reaction to occur. These temperatures were chosen to investigate 'normal' or 'stable' regions of a planet saturated in carbonic acid, and regions where heating resulted in melting and production of magma, respectively. We saw some really interesting things when we observed the recovered samples using a scanning electron microscope. The lower temperature experiments contain the same combination of minerals we would expect to find at equivalent depth in the Earth, although in a more oxidised form. Pressure promotes formation of carbonic acid. However, at high pressure and temperature this acid oxidises rocks; it literally pumps extra oxygen into the minerals. In some ways this is similar to the use of carbonic acid as a restorative gas (i.e. what you told me about James Watt and his invalid son). The higher temperature experiment has a combination of 'rock' and magma (liquid rock); the conditions we used provide a snapshot of a volcanic process where heat and carbonic acid cause the planet to melt. Once again, carbonic acid has oxidised the material. The magma is quenched to glass imperfectly, so that we capture small crystals starting to form, and bubbles of carbon dioxide forming. Textures suggest that this magma had a very unusual composition; carbonic acid was fully dissolved in the melt, but was slowly released as carbon dioxide and then water as the magma crystallised. In our hypothetic exoplanet, carbon dioxide and water and forced together deep within the planet to form a highly concentrated acid. However, this acid oxidises the planet, in the same way that iron rusts on the surface of the Earth. Volcanic activity on our exoplanet returns carbonic acid to the surface as both water and carbon dioxide, also producing unusual carbonatite volcanoes, similar to Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ol_Doinyo_Lengai). 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact -vdrome film "Geological evidences"; this platform provides give high profile to short films; curators include the Tate Modern's film curator: https://www.vdrome.org/matthew-c-wilson -exhibition as part of the Amsterdam Art weekend (21-24 November 2019); exhibition of a series of infused aluminum prints "Factitious Earths": https://www.matthewcwilson.com/work/factitious-earths -Talk and presentation, follwoed by discussion and reception event, in collaboration with the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh by Matthew C. Wilson and Geoff Bromiley: Geological evidences (https://www.matthewcwilson.com/film-video). 
 
Description -Titan's atmospheric seasonal variations including polar vortex formation and trace gas evolution over the course of the Cassini mission. These findings are currently being used to plan future studies with JWST and ALMA.
-Predictions of impact induced seismicity on Europa, which could contribute to development of a new lander mission.
-New trace gases discovered on Titan using ALMA, which have implications for astrobiology and atmospheric chemistry.
-We have made important progress in technical developments that underlies one part of the proposal. We have improved our reproducibility of Ca isotope measurement on both thermal and plasma ionisation instrument to 30ppm. This has allowed us to demonstrate a very close similarly of lunar and terrestrial basalts in terms of their Ca isotopic compositions. This is unexpected from conventional models of the lunar magma ocean and places tight constraints on permissible scenarios of lunar magma sources and their melting. We have also developed Si isotope analyses.
Exploitation Route We have been sharing our expertise with low temperature geochemists and archaeologists for studying additional problems.
Sectors Education,Environment

 
Description Enchanced knowledge of Titan's atmosphere resulting from research on the grant is being used to help guide future missions, namely James Webb Space Telescope, where Teanby was invited to give a talk to project staff/software engineers at ESTEC in late 2017. The PIs were involved in the first Annual Colin Pillinger Memorial Talk, An Hour on the Moon. This was organised by the University of Bristol for a general audience on the evening of 25th November in the Great Hall. All spaces were filled for this successful event. As part of this the PIs hosted James Carpenter from ESA, who came to present on current developments in lunar exploration. Teanby prepared a case study for the web site of the company National Instruments: http://sine.ni.com/cs/app/doc/p/id/cs-16722
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description (EROS) - ExploRing the surface slopes Of aSteroids
Amount € 224,933 (EUR)
Funding ID 837894 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 01/2020 
End 12/2021
 
Description Aurora
Amount £59,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/R001367/1 
Organisation UK Space Agency 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 06/2020
 
Description IMF Approved Project - Cl isotopes in lunar glasses
Amount £24,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Department NERC Ion Micro-Probe Facility
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description IMF approved project: H partitioning in NAMS
Amount £7,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Department NERC Ion Micro-Probe Facility
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 12/2017
 
Description Moray endowment fund: Cl in lunar glasses
Amount £1,808 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 06/2017
 
Description Principal's career development PhD students joint with Geosciences funding
Amount £109,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 09/2019
 
Title Titan atmospheric temperature and composition database from Cassini 
Description Titan atmospheric temperature and composition database from Cassini 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Use by other researchers and modellers 
URL https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2018GL081401
 
Description ALMA 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Goddard Space Flight Center
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Radiative transfer analysis of new ALMA data
Collaborator Contribution Data reduction of new ALMA data
Impact Publication of HNC and HCN abundance on Titan
Start Year 2014
 
Description Cassini 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Goddard Space Flight Center
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Collaborator Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Impact publications (see pubs section)
 
Description Cassini 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Collaborator Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Impact publications (see pubs section)
 
Description Cassini 
Organisation Observatory of Paris
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Collaborator Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Impact publications (see pubs section)
 
Description Cassini 
Organisation SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Collaborator Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Impact publications (see pubs section)
 
Description Cassini 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Department of Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Collaborator Contribution Data analysis and interpretation
Impact publications (see pubs section)
 
Description GSFC 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Goddard Space Flight Center
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Impact over 25 research papers published since 2006
Start Year 2006
 
Description GSFC 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Goddard Space Flight Center
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Collaborator Contribution Publications and access to data
Impact Contributions to 25 scientific papers since 2006
Start Year 2006
 
Description JPL 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data for publication
Impact Publication of over 10 scientific papers
Start Year 2006
 
Description JPL 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Impact Over 1o research papers published since 2006
Start Year 2006
 
Description Johns Hopkins University 
Organisation Johns Hopkins University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scientific collaboration (Titan) including hosting a visiting PhD student.
Collaborator Contribution Scientific collaboration / funds for visiting student
Impact Telescope time application for ALMA
Start Year 2010
 
Description Oxford 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Impact More than 10 joint papers published since 2010
Start Year 2010
 
Description Paris 
Organisation Observatory of Paris
Department Laboratory for Space Science and Astrophysical Instrumentation
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Impact Publication of over 15 research papers since 2006
Start Year 2006
 
Description Paris 
Organisation Observatory of Paris
Department Laboratory for Space Science and Astrophysical Instrumentation
Country France 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Collaborator Contribution Analysis and interpretation of spacecraft data
Impact Published over 15 papers on planetary atmospheres
Start Year 2006
 
Description Article for TES sponsored content on using space to inspire pupils to study STEM subjects 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Article for TES sponsored content on using space to inspire pupils to study STEM subjects
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.tes.com/news/space-perfect-way-inspire-stem-study-sponsored
 
Description Organization and hosting of the festival "De La Plage aux Étoiles" in Collioure (France) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Organization and hosting of the festival "De La Plage aux Étoiles" in Collioure (France). It is an astrophysics outreach festival with exhibitions, conferences and sky observations with telescopes. (Melody Sylvestre)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.astrocollioure.fr/spip/
 
Description 3 Outreach conferences about Planetary Atmospheres in the Solar System for the students of the Jean Renoir high school (Bristol, March 2017, 2019 and 2020) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 3 Outreach conferences about Planetary Atmospheres in the Solar System for the students of the Jean
Renoir high school (Bristol, March 2017, 2019 and 2020)
Melody Sylvestre
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2019,2020
 
Description @Bristol - Earthquakes and Engineering 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact PDRA M. Sylvestre helped demonstrate seismic methods at the Earthquakes and Engineering event at the @Bristol science centre
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Advised on purported meteorite finds 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A member of the public came with a stone believed to be a meteorite. I advised that it was a rounded, metamorphic rock and explained its likely origin
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Habitable planet consortium meeting, Edinburgh 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I co-organised (with Dr Linda Kirstein) a meeting of all members of the related NERC consortium (Deep Volatiles) In Sept, in Edinburgh. Representatives from NERC were present during the meeting. We also hosted a group of Chinese Geoscience researchers employed on a similar consortium funded in China, and discussed plans (both consortia) for future work and grant applications. As part of the meeting we also organised 3 field trips, including a 2 day pre-meeting fieldtrip for our Chinese visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Interview for the podcast Curious About 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview for the podcast Curious About, about my work as a planetary scientist (Melody Sylvestre)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://cap.podbean.com/e/physics-1534576936
 
Description Interview for the podcast Curious About 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Interview for the podcast Curious About. Careers and science focus. (Melody Sylvestre)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://cap.podbean.com/e/physics-1534576936/
 
Description Interview for the podcast La Science en Chemin by the French astronomy magazine Ciel & Espace 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview for the podcast La Science en Chemin by the French astronomy magazine Ciel & Espace, about my work, my studies, and my outreach activities (Melody Sylvestre)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.cieletespace.fr/actualites/podcast-la-science-en-chemin-avec-melody-sylvestre
 
Description Invited talk at Scottish Planetary Science Research Network Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited talk for Nicci Potts, the postdoc currently employed on this grant, who spoke about work conducted to date, the purpose of the project, and the intent of the wider consortium, so an audience of scientists from across Scotland who work on all aspects of planetary sciences. The purpose of the meeting was to highlight potential for future grant applications. Dr Geoff Bromiley then spoke about work previously conducted on core formation in the Earth, and Tetsuya Komabayashi spoke about work on the voaltile element content of Earth's core.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited talk, PVG joint meeting between Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited 15 minute talk entitled "core formation in the early solar system: is everything we know about terrestrial geochemistry wrong?"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Involvement in Pillinger Public lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Hosted ESA speaker for the Pillinger Lecture. Engaged with organisers of event, providing assistance and with members of public at event (>200 people in fully ticketed event in University Great Hall)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Keynote Speaker at National Space Academy "Flight School" Careers Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Keynote Speaker at National Space Academy "Flight School" Careers Event (Anna Horleston)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Organization and hosting of the festival "De La Plage aux Étoiles" in Collioure (France) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Organization and hosting of the festival "De La Plage aux Étoiles" in Collioure (France) (Melody Sylvestre)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Outreach conference about Cassini for the amateur astronomy club Janus in Gennevilliers (France) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach conference about Cassini for the amateur astronomy club Janus in Gennevilliers (France) (Melody Sylvestre)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Outreach conference about Cassini for the amateur astronomy club Janus in Gennevilliers (France) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Outreach conference about Cassini for the amateur astronomy club Janus in Gennevilliers (France) (Melody Sylvestre)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Pint of Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact pint of science (engagement event)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Press release on Titan research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact press release
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2019/04/11/extended-winter-polar-vortices-chill-saturns-strangely-fam...
 
Description Titan Vortex 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Press release, media interviews, and associated publicity surrounding Nature Comms article on Titan's winter polar vortex
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.stfc.ac.uk/news/titans-unique-chemistry-causes-strange-atmospheric-behaviour/