Planetary Science at Oxford Physics 2019

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Oxford Physics

Abstract

This proposal in planetary physics ranges from studying the atmospheres of the giant planets through to studying the reflectance and thermal properties of airless bodies such as asteroids, which are the primary ways in which these bodies can be studied. The programme outlines a coordinated effort to: 1) measure and understand the fluid circulations, cloud condensation and photochemistry in giant planet atmospheres, both within the Solar System and beyond; and 2) measure and interpret the spectra of airless planetary bodies to better understand their origins, composition and regolith structure. We have four complementary main projects.

Project 1: Recent results from the Juno mission have indicated that the complex, zonally banded atmospheric circulation of Jupiter (and probably Saturn) is neither very deep compared to the planetary radius, nor confined solely to a shallow 'weather layer'. This leaves unanswered a host of key questions concerning the dynamical origin of their meteorology and the resulting transport of heat and material tracers within these iconic and prototypical planetary bodies. In this project, we will test and evaluate possible dynamical mechanisms for energizing the principal features of the atmospheric circulations of Jupiter and Saturn, using a combination of innovative analyses of the observed wind and thermal structure from Cassini, Voyager, Juno and other spacecraft, and a state- of-the-art global numerical circulation model of the deep weather layers of Jupiter and Saturn.

Project 2: How do clouds form in the atmospheres of the Giant Planets? What are they made of and how are they initiated? In this project we will link near-infrared (near-IR) reflection measurements, thermal-IR emission observations and fundamental modelling to explore cloud formation in hydrogen-rich Solar System Giant Planets. This will ultimately benefit the understanding of clouds in both Solar System planets and exoplanets.

Project 3: Primitive asteroids (usually assumed to be C- and B-type asteroids) hold important clues to the formation and evolution of the Solar System. In this project, enabled by our roles as the UK's only Co-Investigator and Participating Scientist, we will use data from NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission to study primitive asteroid Bennu in preparation for sampling of its surface in 2020. As part of the mission's science team, and using our bespoke laboratory and numerical modelling capabilities, our work will place the returned sample into geologic context and also help determine Bennu's place in the wider context of the Solar System's asteroid populations.

Project 4: Remote sensing measurements in the thermal infrared (TIR) can be used to determine the composition and physical properties of an airless body through spectroscopy and temperature mapping. Surface temperature datasets are being acquired by missions including NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and OSIRIS-REx, and to interpret them correctly requires new laboratory measurements. This project addresses how thermal emission varies with observation angle, surface roughness and porosity by using and upgrading a unique experimental facility, the Oxford Space Environment Goniometer, to make targeted laboratory measurements to maximise the return from these new and future datasets.

Planned Impact

Our work is at the cutting edge of modern planetary science and will bring benefits to the UK through public engagement, scientific advancement and industrial collaboration as outlined below.
1. Public Engagement and Outreach: Our group has a very strong track record in public outreach and engagement including participating in events such as "Stargazing Oxford", "Pint of Science" and the Royal Society's Partnership scheme and Summer Exhibition. Typically, the largest public interest in space exploration occurs at crucial moments in a mission's lifetime, e.g. the extended science mission for ESA/NASA's Juno mission, launch of ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission in 2022, rendezvous and sampling for NASA/OSIRIS-REx mission (2019-2022) at asteroid Bennu, and the James Webb Space Telescope (2019 - ). We will work with local organisations to arrange outreach events to mark these key stages in the missions we are involved with. We will continue to contribute to the department's efforts in engaging diverse audiences through targeted programmes and community events and are working to reach schools in Oxford with the lowest progression rates to university. This work aligns with STFC's mission of "Improving our reach with diverse audiences".
2. Analysis Techniques: The techniques we are developing for better exploiting Solar System planet observations will have potential impacts in other areas also. We are a member of an academic partnership with the UK Met Office, which will allow advances we make in atmospheric circulation modelling to be made available to Met Office researchers enabling them to be applied in weather forecasting and climate change prediction. The advanced retrieval techniques we are developing with our radiative transfer and retrieval model, NEMESIS, have the potential to change quite radically the way we think of our place in the Universe since they can be applied not only to Solar System planets, but also to the emerging field of exoplanetary science.
3. Novel Spacecraft Instrumentation: Our space instrument development activity involves collaboration with several UK industrial partners, where we are using technologies we have developed for planetary science instrumentation to enable a new class of radiometers for small Earth observation spacecraft. The surfaces theme includes the development of a compact infrared spectrometer and we are currently in early discussions with Oxford's technology transfer office (Oxford University Innovations Ltd) regarding possible commercial uses for this instrument for future Earth observation and ground-based applications.
4. Laboratory Surface Characterisation: The proposed upgrade to our space environment spectrogoniometer will enable a much wider user group from both academia and industry to gain benefit from using this facility. Example applications include carrying out specialist spectroscopic characterisation of high emissivity coatings or spacecraft components at multiple emission and reflection angles.
5. Building Connections: The planetary group coordinates the Oxford Space Research Network that brings together groups within the University with space instrumentation and technology interests. Our Network is an important route for connecting and disseminating our work to the national and international space sector. Preparation for future missions (especially in ESA's Cosmic Vision programme) helps to inform and enable involvement by UK companies.
6. Citizen Science: For our work on giant planet atmospheres the increasing ability of amateur observers to provide background monitoring of events is a hugely exciting new area of planetary science. Amateur astronomers were responsible for the detection of several planetary storms in the last few years, which led to professional programmes and resulting publications. Such involvements also give rise to increased engagement by amateur observers and the wider public/media

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Sing Song Physics 
Description Created a song about asteroids with Jonny Berliner and people in Oxford 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Evaluation showed that audience found the activity engaging and learnt about asteroids. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LT5EFnkm3gM
 
Title Cassini Saturn polar velocity fields 
Description The data comprise two 2-dimensional gridded maps of horizontal wind measurements covering the north and south polar regions of Saturn, as previously published by Antuñano et al. (2015). As fully described in that paper, these measurements were derived from sets of Cassini Orbiter Imaging Sub-System (ISS) Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images using the continuum band CB2 and CB3 filters, acquired for the northern hemisphere in June 2013 and for the southern hemisphere using WAC CB2 and CB3 images taken in October 2006 and December 2008. Additional NAC images using the CB2 and red filters taken in July 2008 were also used to analyse the southern polar vortex. The WAC images covered a region extending from a planetocentric latitude of around 60-65 degrees to each pole (apart from a segment in longitude between around 35 - 110 degrees W) with a horizontal resolution equivalent to around 0.05 degrees latitude (around 50km) per pixel, while NAC images were mostly used for the polar vortices, with a resolution equivalent to around 0.01 degrees latitude (around 10 km) per pixel. Horizontal velocities were obtained using semi-automated image correlation methods between pairs of images separated in time by intervals of approximately 1-10 hours. The correlation algorithm used pixel box sizes of 23 x 23 (in the north) or 25 x 25 (in the south), leading to a spatial resolution of the velocity vectors equivalent to around 1 degree latitude or 1000 km outside the polar vortices, reducing to around 0.2 degrees or 200 km within the polar vortices themselves. The automatically generated velocity vectors were supplemented by a small number (around 1% of the total) of vectors obtained manually from the motion of visually identified cloud tracers. The estimated measurement uncertainty on each vector was around 5-10 m/s. The original velocity vectors from Antuñano et al. (2015) were interpolated onto a regular latitude-longitude grid using convex hulls and Delauney triangulation via the QHULL routine of the Interactive Data Language (IDL). The final datasets are held on a regular grid separated by 3-4 degrees in longitude and 0.23 degrees in latitude. Data are stored as two text files, tabulating the latitude and (west) longitude of each point and the eastward and northward velocity components respectively in units of m/s. Reference: Antuñano,A., del Río-Gaztelurrutia,T., Sánchez-Lavega,A., & Hueso, R. (2015). Dynamics of Saturn's polar regions. J. Geophys. Res.: Planets, 120, 155-176. doi: 10.1002/2014JE004709 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None as yet. 
URL https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:76da2bd5-ac16-4df9-b6d4-4052b99ed720
 
Title PASCALE Spectral Data for OSIRIS-REx 
Description Spectral library of meteorite and mineral spectra measured under simulated asteroid conditions 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Analysis of remote sensing data from Bennu. 
URL https://www.asteroidmission.org
 
Description Comet Interceptor ESA F-class mission 
Organisation VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
Country Finland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are the PI organisation for the MIRMIS hyper and multispectral imaging instrument for Comet Interceptor.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of the Mid and Near-IR spectrometers for ESA's Comet Interceptor mission.
Impact Numerous technical reports to ESA as part of the evaluation of the Comet Interceptor science payload.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Diviner Team 
Organisation Brown University
Department Planetary Geosciences Group
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Access to laboratory facilities, analysis of samples, data analysis and inter comparisons, development of new laboratory experiments and facilities
Collaborator Contribution provision of mineral samples, graduate students, collaboration on successful Apollo sample consortium proposal.
Impact Proposal for Apollo Samples to CAPTEM, numerous publications. Collaboration is multi-displinary bringing together physics, geophysics and geology.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Diviner Team 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Department Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Access to laboratory facilities, analysis of samples, data analysis and inter comparisons, development of new laboratory experiments and facilities
Collaborator Contribution provision of mineral samples, graduate students, collaboration on successful Apollo sample consortium proposal.
Impact Proposal for Apollo Samples to CAPTEM, numerous publications. Collaboration is multi-displinary bringing together physics, geophysics and geology.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Diviner Team 
Organisation Stony Brook University
Department Earth and Space Sciences
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Access to laboratory facilities, analysis of samples, data analysis and inter comparisons, development of new laboratory experiments and facilities
Collaborator Contribution provision of mineral samples, graduate students, collaboration on successful Apollo sample consortium proposal.
Impact Proposal for Apollo Samples to CAPTEM, numerous publications. Collaboration is multi-displinary bringing together physics, geophysics and geology.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Diviner Team 
Organisation University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Department Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Access to laboratory facilities, analysis of samples, data analysis and inter comparisons, development of new laboratory experiments and facilities
Collaborator Contribution provision of mineral samples, graduate students, collaboration on successful Apollo sample consortium proposal.
Impact Proposal for Apollo Samples to CAPTEM, numerous publications. Collaboration is multi-displinary bringing together physics, geophysics and geology.
Start Year 2009
 
Description Lunar Trailblazer 
Organisation National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Country United States 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We are providing the Lunar Thermal Mapping instrument to NASA's Lunar Trailblazer SIMPLEX mission.
Collaborator Contribution NASA are funding the Lunar Trailblazer missions. The mission PI is based at CalTech.
Impact Technical documentation to NASA and UKSA as part of the design and review process for the Trailblazer mission.
Start Year 2018
 
Description OSIRIS-REx 
Organisation University of Arizona
Department Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Laboratory experiments to support the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission.
Collaborator Contribution Access to meteorite samples
Impact Internal reports to the OSIRIS-REx project, multi-displinary physics/geology
Start Year 2011
 
Description PROSPECT User group 
Organisation European Space Agency
Department European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Membership of the PROSPECT user group (PUG)
Collaborator Contribution ESA are leading the development of the PROSPECT package as part of lunar exploration collaboration with Russia.
Impact Technical reports for ESA PROSPECT instrument teams
Start Year 2016
 
Description UK Met Office numerical model development 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Laboratory measurements of convective flows for comparison with and validation of numerical model simulations.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of access to numerical model codes and technical assistance and advice on adaptation of code to make simulations of our lab experiments. Provision of super-computer resources to carry out simulations. Sponsorship of NERC CASE award for student to work on the model.
Impact Adaptation of Met Office ENDGAME model to simulate flows in cylindrical geometry - work still in progress.
Start Year 2015
 
Title 3D Airless Bodies thermal physical model 
Description 3D thermal model of airless bodies (Moon, asteroids, Comets etc.) 
Type Of Technology Physical Model/Kit 
Year Produced 2020 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact Mission design for PROPECt, Comet Interceptor and Lunar Trailblazer 
URL https://github.com/tw7044/O3DTM
 
Description Destination: Space, Virtual Flash Talk Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A series of six online talks were presented on several planetary science topics to a live audience of about 100 students per talk. These talks allowed for interactive discussions of each topic, and increased interest from schools in using these talks and follow-up materials to relate these topics to the national curriculum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/about-us/outreach/public/public-lectures/flash-talk-physics
 
Description International Observe the Moon Night public event 
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 Approximately 90 university students and members of the general public attended our lunar observing night as part of the International Observe the Moon night program by NASA. This included many discussions about lunar research at the University of Oxford, as well as general information about planetary science from children and adults alike.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/events/international-observe-moon-night
 
Description Oxford Sparks Big Questions Podcast: Is there water on the Moon? 
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 We recorded a 15 minute podcast suited for general audiences that was focused on the upcoming Lunar Trailblazer mission, the detection of water on the Moon, and its importance for future exploration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Oxford Stargazing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The public was invited into the department to take part in interactive activities, engage with researchers and listen to lectures. Our booth demonstrated the utility of infrared techniques in examining planetary surfaces through use of a thermal infrared camera; the sampling technique used in the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission through a custom built game; and the challenges of using robotics by using a robotic arm to perform simple tasks. These activities drew participants in and facilitated discussions about the science and engineering involved in planetary missions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
 
Description Oxford University Museum of Natural History Christmas Lecture: Exploring the Solar System with Invisible Light 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact ~80 Year 5 & 6 students from several schools attended our invited talk at the Natural History Museum discussing infrared light and how we use it to learn about the Solar System. This event included discussion, NASA & ESA videos, as well as demonstrations of key concepts relevant to the national curriculum. Teachers reported increased student interest and we were invited to return to for further museum events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Royal Society Summer Exhibition 2019 - Living on the Moon 
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 Participated in the "Living on the Moon" exhibit at the 2019 Royal Society Summer Exhibition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2019/summer-science-exhibition/
 
Description School Seminar: How do we know what other planets are made of? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 70 primary school students attended a virtual talk on meteorites and asteroids, creating discussion on local events (meteorite impact) and the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission. The school reported increased interest in space and physics, and we received several thank-you letters from students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Virtual School Talk: What are Shooting Stars? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 40 primary students attended a virtual talk about meteorites. This encouraged discussion about a recent local meteorite fall and meteorite and asteroid research ongoing at Oxford. The school reported increased curiosity in the subject, and good links to the national curriculum, and we were invited back.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021