Heather Watson, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, was awarded a research grant from the NASA/New York Space Grant (NYSG) Consortium for her project Freezing point depression at high pressure in salt-water solutions: Implications for the composition of icy worlds. Professor Watson is collaborating on this project with George Shaw, Professor Emeritus of Geology, and Elise Liebow '22, a physics major.
The potential for icy moons, such as Europa, Enceladus, and Ganymede, to host life in our Solar System has created an interest in understanding their interior structures and compositions. In anticipation of the ESA's JUICE and NASA's Europa Clipper missions, there is an increased effort to produce experimental data on possible compositions and physical properties that can help inform and interpret the findings from these missions.
Through this grant, the project team will undertake a series of high pressure/low temperature measurements of the melting/freezing behavior of a wide range of salt-water solutions that have the potential to be directly relevant to the compositions of icy moons. Knowledge of these behaviors will have bearing on the understanding of the structure and temperatures of icy moons' interiors.