Using an Instrumented Drone to Sample Dust Devils
Dust devils are low-pressure, small (many to tens of meters) convective vortices powered by surface heating and rendered visible by lofted dust. The dust-lifting capacity of a devil likely depends sensitively on its structure, particularly the wind and pressure profiles, but the exact dependencies are poorly constrained. In this pilot study, we flew an instrumented quadcopter through several dust devils to probe their structures.
Dust devils occur ubiquitously on Mars, where they have been observed from space and from landed spacecraft. Martian dust devils may present a hazard to exploration of the planet, but they have also lengthened the lifetime of the Mars rovers.
Join the Physics Department on Friday, Sep 1 at 7:30p in the Multi-Purpose Classroom Building, room 101 to hear about research on terrestrial analog dust devils conducted by Boise State’s own Prof. Brian Jackson. He will discuss a recent pilot study using an instrumented quadcopter to sample active dust devils and will present encounter footage collected onboard the drone.
After the presentation at 8:30p, we will stargaze on the roof of the Brady Street Parking Garage.
A friend and colleague, Prof. Hannah Jang-Condell, invited me to visit her home department, the Physics and Astronomy Dept. at University of Wyoming. Having never been to Laramie, I was happy to accept.
I gave two presentations while at Wyoming, one to the geology dept. about our work on martian dust devils and another our SuPerPiG’s work looking for ultra-short-period planets. I’ve included my presentations below.
I’ve posted two of the talks and abbreviated abstracts below. The dust devil talk, “Summoning Devils in the Desert”, is a reprise of a previous talk, so I didn’t include it below.
Crowdfunding To Support University Research and Public Outreach
In this presentation, I discussed my own crowdfunding project to support the rehabilitation of Boise State’s on-campus observatory. As the first project launched on PonyUp, it was an enormous success — we met our original donation goal of $8k just two weeks into the four-week campaign and so upped the goal to $10k, which we achieved two weeks later. In addition to the very gratifying monetary support of the broader Boise community, we received personal stories from many of our donors about their connections to Boise State and the observatory. I’ll talk about our approach to social and traditional media platforms and discuss how we leveraged an unlikely cosmic syzygy to boost the campaign.
On the Edge: Exoplanets with Orbital Periods Shorter Than a Peter Jackson Movie
In this presentation, I discussed the work of our Short-Period Planets Group (SuPerPiG), focused on finding and understanding this surprising new class of exoplanets. We are sifting data from the reincarnated Kepler Mission, K2, to search for additional short-period planets and have found several new candidates. We are also modeling the tidal decay and disruption of close-in gaseous planets to determine how we could identify their remnants, and preliminary results suggest the cores have a distinctive mass-period relationship that may be apparent in the observed population. Whatever their origins, short-period planets are particularly amenable to discovery and detailed follow-up by ongoing and future surveys, including the TESS mission.