John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

News and information from the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Colloquium Series Continues with Planetary Scientist on February 10th

The Space Studies Spring 2020 Colloquium Series will feature several leading experts in various space-related fields.  Please join us for our second presentation in this series that will feature planetary scientist Michael P. Lucas of the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Presentation Title:  Surface Composition and Thermal Evolution of Asteroids: Results from the Observatory and Laboratory”

Date:  Monday, February 10, 2020

Time:  5:00-7:00 p.m. (Central Time)

Location:  Ryan Hall, Room 111

About the topic: 

Most asteroids are very far away, making it difficult to ascertain their compositions. The direct method to determine the composition of an asteroid is to send a spacecraft to grab a sample from its surface and deliver it back to Earth. But, sample return missions are expensive, and presently only a few asteroids are targeted for sample return missions. Conveniently, meteorites are pieces of asteroids and therefore represent essentially “free” asteroid samples. These samples represent “time capsules” for the study of the early evolution of the Solar System. Furthermore, the study of asteroids is greatly aided by ground-based telescopes, which are highly useful in the field of asteroid science because the number of objects is so great (~1.5 x 106 asteroids >1 km in the Main Belt) that only a tiny fraction can ever be visited by spacecraft. In lieu of asteroid sample return missions, the mineralogical and spectral study of meteorites in the laboratory, combined with ground-based telescopic spectral observations of asteroids, affords the best possibility of linking meteorite groups with the surface composition of their parent asteroid(s).

In his presentation, Dr. Lucas will begin with background material on establishing asteroid-meteorite connections using both ground-based telescopes and the laboratory analysis of meteorites. The presentation will then focus on asteroid science using ground-based observatories. Dr. Lucas will describe the results of his comprehensive telescopic spectral survey entitled “Hungaria Asteroid Region Telescopic Spectral Survey (HARTSS), where he investigated the surface compositions and meteorite analogs of 92 Hungaria asteroids. Next, the focus of the presentation will shift to the laboratory to describe Dr. Lucas’ work on developing correlations between the mineralogy and spectral properties of primitive achondrite meteorites, specifically the acapulcoite-lodranite clan. Finally, Dr. Lucas will present his latest research regarding the thermal histories of ordinary chondrite (H, L, and LL) parent asteroids. This work uses a novel Rare-Earth-Element (REE) thermometric method to show that parent bodies of ordinary chondrite meteorites most likely experienced violent thermal histories, which involved fragmentation-reassembly, rather than quiescent thermal histories required by the classic onion shell model.


About the speaker:

Michael Peter Lucas was born in Leesburg, Virginia and was raised in his hometown of Annandale, Virginia. Michael attended St. Michael’s Catholic School in Annandale through the eighth grade. Despite very little coursework in science at catholic school, Michael realized when he was “knee-high” that he would become a scientist. Michael attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA, where he joined the astronomy club and competed in athletics on the track team.

Michael became a founding staff member of Florida Gulf Coast University, where he co-founded the Evelyn L. Egan Astronomical Observatory that was built on the campus of that institution in 2002. Shortly thereafter in 2003 he earned his B.A. in Geology at the University of South Florida (USF). Before returning to USF for graduate studies, Michael enjoyed a successful laboratory career, first as a chemist at the lab bench, then as a manager in various private and governmental laboratory settings. Michael earned his M.S. in Geology at USF in 2011 and afterward moved to Knoxville, TN to pursue a Ph.D. in planetary science in Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at the University of Tennessee (UTK), where he earned his doctorate in 2017.

Michael has held numerous fellowships throughout his academic career, including a Florida Space Grant Fellowship and the Richard H. Davis Endowed Fellowship in Geology during his master’s program. During his doctoral program at UTK, he was awarded an Oscar R. Ashley Fellowship and was also a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow. Michael currently is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, UTK, where he uses the mineralogic, geochemical, and spectral analyses of meteorites, integrated with astronomical observations of their asteroid parent bodies using ground-based telescopes, to explore the petrogenesis, composition, and evolution of the early Solar System. Michael owns too many backyard telescopes, enjoys music, backpacking, and model rocketry. Michael believes strongly in public service and stays active in cancer patient advocacy and outreach.


A simple live webcast will be available here.

Via Zoom video conferencing.  Questions for the speaker may be posted at this site during the presentation and is best suited for enrolled students.

Colloquium presentations will be added to the colloquium website after the live event for later public viewing.



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