Leading Edge / Summer 2008
From Earth to the Moon

NASA selects geology professor to help analyze data from the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter

Although she never dreamed of being an astronaut, Rebecca Ghent’s eyes have long been on the skies. An assistant professor of geology at U of T, Ghent specializes in the processes occurring on the surfaces of other planets. She most recently worked on mapping the nearside of the moon using radar pulses transmitted from a telescope in Puerto Rico. This March, NASA selected Ghent as one of 24 scientists to analyze data gathered by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The unmanned spacecraft will launch later this year to find safe and scientifically profitable landing sites for NASA’s return to the moon. The Orbiter will carry a number of instruments, and Ghent will work on a team dedicated to the Diviner Lunar Radiometer, which will beam back thermal mapping measurements. (Rocks of different compositions and physical properties radiate heat differently. Thermal maps measure radiation patterns, which help scientists determine the composition and texture of materials on a planet’s surface.) Ghent’s focus is on craters, and specifically the particles ejected when meteorites collide with the moon.“You can get boulders the size of houses, all the way down to grains of sand,” notes Ghent. Researchers will use the data to help answer questions about the formation of the moon and the history of particles in the universe.

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