NSF Funds Rowan Prof?s Comet Research

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The National Science Foundation has awarded Dr. Karen Magee-Sauer, a Rowan University physics and astronomy professor, a three-year, $155,000-grant to support her research on comets, Infrared Spectros

The National Science Foundation has awarded Dr. Karen Magee-Sauer, a Rowan University physics and astronomy professor, a three-year, $155,000-grant to support her research on comets, Infrared Spectroscopy and Characterization of Comets.

Magee-Sauer will use the funds in part to travel with physics major Anthony Mandra, of Lacey Township, to Hawaii in May to observe comet LINEAR T7 using the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea for the work.

?Two comets, LINEAR T7 and NEAT Q4, are on track to be ?naked-eye? observing targets in May and June. Our group was awarded 22 nights at the IRTF to observe both comets in May, June and July and three nights at the Keck 2 telescope on Mauna Kea in June,? Magee-Sauer said. ?It?s very competitive to obtain time on the IRFT, and I?m pleased not only that we?ve been awarded this time but also that an undergraduate student will be able to conduct research there, which in itself is very rare.?

This will mark the fifth time Magee-Sauer or a fellow Rowan professor has brought an undergraduate student to work at the Hawaii site, which is run by the Institute for Astronomy -- one of the world?s leading astronomical research centers -- at the University of Hawaii and includes observatories sponsored by several universities and nations.

The prime objective of Magee-Sauer?s work under the NSF grant is to determine the substances of which the comets are composed, which in turn may provide her and other scientists with more details about how the solar system was formed.

?Because comets are intrusive visitors to the planets within our solar system, they introduce new molecules into these environments. What role the delivery of organics and water by comets played in the emergence and evolution of life on Earth is a key question in the field of astrobiology,? Magee-Sauer said. ?Comets are considered to be the most primitive bodies in our solar system. The composition of their native ices can be considered a fingerprint of the chemical and physical conditions of the region of their formation. Their characterization is central to identifying the processes that occurred during formation of the solar system.?

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