Lunar and Asteroid Volcanic Studies Based on Terrestrial Fieldwork, Laboratory Analysis, and Numerical Modeling

This NPP (NASA Postdoctoral Program) position provides an opportunity to work with the FINESSE (Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration) team based at NASA Ames Research Center as a part of NASA’s SSERVI (Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute). The FINESSE team focuses on a science and exploration field-based research program aimed at generating strategic knowledge in preparation for the human and robotic exploration of the Moon, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and Phobos & Deimos. We infuse our science program with leading edge exploration concepts since “science enables exploration and exploration enables science.”

Volcanism is a dominant geologic process that has significantly shaped the surface of planetary bodies. Evidence for volcanism on the terrestrial planets, moons and asteroids indicate great diversity in processes and profound connections to planetary evolution. For planetary bodies that have been influenced by volcanism, it is essential to determine the absolute and relative ages of the volcanic deposits, identify the different volcanic rock types, characterize the morphologic features, and deduce how volcanic processes have influenced the geologic history. Understanding volcanism provides a window into the interior of planetary bodies that have experienced internal differentiation into core-mantle-crust layers, partial melting, and magma genesis. The morphologies of volcanic constructs on these bodies illustrate differences in eruptive style related to magma supply rate, magma viscosity, chemical composition, volatile content, and eruption temperature.

This NPP position will focus on terrestrial volcanic field studies, laboratory analysis of samples, and numerical modeling as analogs for lunar and asteroid volcanic systems. The candidate will study the processes, geomorphic features and rock types related to fissure eruptions, volcanic constructs, lava tubes, flows and pyroclastic deposits.

Fieldwork will be based at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve and surroundings. This site is highly relevant scientifically for studying landforms and processes relevant to the Moon, NEAs, and Phobos & Deimos. The geologic landforms are exposed, well preserved, and easily accessible. The field site is a relatively young (~2-15 ka) dominantly basaltic polygenetic volcanic system, hosts a variety of well-exposed undisturbed analogs to volcanic formations on the Moon and other planetary bodies. Nearly every type of lunar volcanic feature is represented. Analog compositional variants further reflect processes of magma evolution, with enrichments in key elements that are used to discern variants in lunar samples, lunar volcanic terrains, and lunar petrogenetic processes. Through this project, the researcher will conduct field work, laboratory analysis of samples, and numerical modeling to further our understanding of volcanic processes on the Earth, Moon, NEAs, and Phobos & Deimos.

The full NPP ad can be viewed here:

For more information on FINESSE, please visit or contact FINESSE PI Jennifer Heldmann.

Posted by: Soderman/SSERVI Staff
Source: SSERVI Team

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