Hot stuff

Numerical models show hot, rocky exoplanets can change their chemistry by vaporizing rock-forming elements in steam atmospheres that are then partially lost to space.
Flooding closes interstates near Valley Park MO

Record Missouri flood manmade calamity

Why was the New Year’s flood in Missouri so bad? Most news reports blamed it on the heavy rain, but Robert Criss, PhD, professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis says analysis of the flood data shows much of the damage was due to recent modifications to the river.

$2.4 million instrument upgrade will let scientists see what is happening inside microbes​​

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded David Fike, PhD, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences, $2.4 million to adapt a powerful chemical microscope called the 7F-GEO SIMS for biological samples. The updated instrument’s ability to map the chemistry inside cells will boost research on microbes that are promising candidates for biofuel or bioenergy production.

Obituary: Ernst K. Zinner, astrophysicist and cosmochemist, 78

Ernst K. Zinner, PhD, research professor emeritus of physics and earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, died Thursday, July 30, of medical complications of mantle cell lymphoma. Among many other accomplishments, in 1987 Zinner identified for the first time material in the laboratory that predated the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

It’s alive, it’s alive!

It was bedlam at mission control when the first images of Pluto came down over the Deep Space Network. Not only were there few craters, but some areas of the planet were smooth as a billiard ball and others rumpled and rippled; some stained the color of dried blood and others gleaming bright white. The variety meant that there was geology on Pluto, alien though the geological processes might be to earthlings.​

Rough guide to Pluto-watching with Bill McKinnon

New Horizons will fly through the Pluto system on July 14 at an angle of 46 degrees to the plane of the dwarf planet’s orbit, then turn to use sunlight reflected from Charon, Pluto’s biggest moon, to image areas of Pluto now in continuous darkness. Your host for the WashU Pluto watching party will be Bill McKinnon, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, who will be commenting from mission headquarters at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

Europa, here we come

Scientists have been itching to go to Europa for a long time because this moon is thought to have a global ocean beneath an outer shell of ice — an ocean that may be hospitable to life. In May, NASA took the first step, selecting nine instruments to fly on a mission to Europa. Washington University’s William McKinnon, on the science team for two of the instruments, talks about the mission.

Their classroom is the desert

The hallmark of the 18-month Pathfinder Program in Environmental Sustainability at Washington University in St. Louis is the field trips to ecosystems, such as the Mojave Desert, that give students the chance to see and touch the land they have been studying. It’s hard to get the students back in the van, says Ray Arvidson, who leads the program.
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