OGDEN, Utah – John Armstrong, a professor in Weber State University's Department of Physics, has received funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to support his work to more easily identify Earth-like planets elsewhere in the galaxy.
The NASA money comes from a post-doc-fellowship offered through the Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Funding for the three-year research project could reach $240,000 if annual appropriations are renewed. The fellowship includes funding for Armstrong's position as a research professor at WSU.
Armstrong and his students will work closely with Vikki Meadows and Dave Crisp, principal investigators at NASA's Astrobiology Institute, developing numerical models to help scientists recognize Earth-like planets when viewed through telescopes.
"We are working to identify specific patterns of light exhibited by planets that have Earth-like characteristics," Armstrong said. "By analyzing the visible and infrared light emitted by planets, we'll be able to more quickly detect planets like our own."
NASA plans to use these numerical models to generate a baseline for Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF), a program designed to hunt for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. Closer to home, the research also will help scientists better understand Earth's evolution.
Dale Ostlie, dean of WSU's College of Science, said faculty engage in a host of projects designed to stimulate students' interest in research and discovery. He said Armstrong's work provides invaluable learning opportunities for students.
"Our undergraduate students will have a chance to work side by side with Dr. Armstrong, witnessing first hand how scientific research benefits the world and deepens our understanding of the universe," said Ostlie.
WSU's Office of Sponsored Projects helped Armstrong and the physics department land the fellowship from NASA.
For more information on NASA's efforts to locate Earth-like planets and the Terrestrial Planet Finder, visit tpf.jpl.nasa.gov/whatis/whatis.html.