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Lucy McFaddenLucy McFadden
The Dawn mission to asteroid Vesta: Computational Perspectives and Scientific Return

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Building 3 Auditorium - 11:20 AM
(Coffee and cookies at 10:30 AM)

Vesta is the 2nd largest asteroid in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. As an object of astronomical study for more than 200 years, the Dawn mission is transforming our understanding of Vesta as a precursor to a terrestrial planet sharing some broad characteristics with Earth and Mars even though Vesta is only 300 miles across.

Dawn's first scientific task, to search for orbiting moons of Vesta, was enabled by Goddard's computer scientists and astronomers. The computational task was not complex, but it involved many steps and posed interesting challenges. We found no satellites larger than 10 meters. Meanwhile, Vesta's man-made satellite, the Dawn spacecraft, is safely in polar orbit around Vesta and revealing the complex history of the asteroids' surface that has been covered by basaltic volcanism and pummeled by former satellites that were obviously in unstable Vestal orbits.

Lucy McFadden is a co-investigator of NASA's Dawn mission that has a spacecraft in orbit around asteroid 4 Vesta. She has studied asteroids and comets throughout her research career revealing the nature of early solar system events from which the planets formed and were disrupted. She has been at Goddard for 18 months serving as the Higher Education and University Programs Chief in the Office of Education. Prior to that she was a Research Professor at University of Maryland, College Park for 16 years. She received her PhD in Geology & Geophysics from University of Hawaii, and a MS in Earth and Planetary Sciences from MIT.
IS&T Colloquium Committee Host: Ben Kobler

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