OGDEN, Utah – A Weber State University assistant physics professor and his students are helping NASA better understand space over the next two years thanks to two research grants.
One research project John Armstrong and his students are engaged in is looking for water deposits on Mars. By analyzing data from past spacecrafts and looking at the changes in the planet's surface temperature compared to its temperature a few meters deep, the group can determine what areas may have water deposits.
"This really is a research opportunity for discovery," Armstrong said. "Nobody has looked at this data before."
The project is funded from the Mars Data Analysis Program. Armstrong said part of the reason they were chosen was because this project primarily is to support undergraduate students. The grant provides funding for two full-time students to work as research assistants during the summer and two part-time positions during the school year.
The other NASA project occupying Armstrong's time is a grant to develop simplified software to model planets around other stars. According to Armstrong, the software programs currently available are difficult to use without years of training. The group hopes to integrate tools into a more user-friendly program.
"NASA just recently discovered an earthlike planet around another star," Armstrong said, "but it will take a month to figure out what the conditions there are like with what programs are available now."
Armstrong said this is a unique and valuable experience for his students. "When employers and graduate school programs see these types of opportunities on a student's resume, they perk up," he said. "It shows the student can take a project from start to finish that nobody has ever done before."
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