Planetary Journal Club- Spring 2010

The Planetary Journal Club is a Friday lunch seminar (noon; Duane Conference Room D-142) where we informally discuss (a) recently published paper(s) on a planetary topic. So bring your lunch and listen to what’s new in the literature. For more information or if you are interested in leading a discussion, (see open slots) please contact Nicole Albers (

Spring 2010


29 Angela Zalucha
(Guest, MIT)

An analysis of Pluto occultation light curves using an atmospheric radiative-conductive model

Stellar occultation studies of Pluto have contributed significantly to our knowledge of its atmosphere. To interpret this data, the Elliot and Young (1992) model has been used extensively, as well as techniques that use this model as a boundary condition (e.g. the “inversion” method of Elliot, Person, and Qu 2003 and the “spikes” method of Zalucha et al. 2007). The Elliot and Young (1992) model assumes out of mathematical convenience that the temperature of a planetary atmosphere goes as a power law with radius from the center of the body, which may not accurately describe the vertical structure of an atmosphere in all cases. To better analyze the Pluto occultation data, I have modeled data from the years 1988, 2002, and 2006 using the Pluto radiative-conductive model of Strobel et al. (1996). This model predicts atmospheric temperature based on physical properties of Pluto’s atmosphere, which allowed me to determine surface pressure, surface radius, and methane mixing ratio from the occultation data. I will also present some preliminary results from a Pluto general circulation model, which will allow me to more comprehensively model the occultation data and learn about the nature of Pluto’s atmospheric circulation.

Please note: We will start the Journal Club this season with a regular seminar talk!




19 Bonnie Meinke Saturn’s largest ring: Implications for Iapetus

Verbiscer et al. (2009), Saturn’s largest ring, Nature, 461, 1098-1100



05 Feng Tian

Recent Developments on Extrasolar Planets

Charbonneau et al. (2009), A super-Earth transiting a nearby low-mass star, Nature, 462, 891-894 [abstract pdf]
Li et al. (2010), WASP-12b as a prolate, inflated and disrupting planet from tidal dissipation, 463, 1054-1056 [abstract pdf]

12 Dave Brain
(UC Berkeley)

The Ins and Outs of Martian Mini-Magnetospheres

Measurements of magnetic fields and charged particles near Mars made over the past four decades have taught us about its plasma environment, upper atmosphere, near-surface radiation environment, subsurface, and deep interior. The upper atmosphere and plasma environment of Mars are of interest because they are the sites of energy exchange between the planet and its surroundings, dominated by the Sun and solar wind. For this reason they may have played a critical role in martian climate evolution. A number of recent spacecraft observations demonstrate that the exchange of particles and energy between the solar wind and atmosphere is particularly dynamic at Mars because strong localized crustal magnetic fields form mini-magnetospheres that rotate with the planet, influencing the motion of charged particles. I will discuss two observed influences of crustal fields on particle motion near Mars and their implications: episodic escape of atmospheric particles via detached crustal fields and localized energy deposition characterized by ultraviolet aurora on the Martian night side.

Please note: The speaker is a candidate for a faculty position in LASP to be rostered in Physics/ASEN  

19 Brian Hynek The scientific utility of meteorites and the Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program

Over one third of the world’s known meteorites have been recovered by a single annual effort: the NASA- and NSF-funded Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program. I participated in the 2009-2010 ANSMET field campaign in the beautiful Miller Range. Camped for 45 days 400 miles from the south pole, we collected over 1000 meteorites including rare lunar and martian samples. This talk will focus on the scientific utility of meteorites and our recent adventures on the ice.





02 Seth Jacobson

Dynamics of Rotationally Fissioned Asteroids: Source of Observed Asteroid Systems

This talk will focus on introducing the observed (Near-Earth Asteroid) NEA systems and the model I have built to understand rotational fission.


09 Adrienne Dove On the lunar dust and plasma environment

Wang et al (2009), Experiments on dust transport in plasma to investigate the origin of the lunar horizon glowJGR, 114, A05103 [abstract pdf]


30 DDA 2010 Boston, MA  


All Journal Clubs: