Bears study the Moon's Volcanoes

This spring, Baylor received a grant provided by NASA’s Lunar Data Analysis Program (LDAP) to study the bulk density of the moon’s silicic volcanoes, which are composed of a type of rock “that is a little bit weird.”

Silicic volcanoes on the moon, specifically the mysterious Gruithuisen Domes, are a lunar geologic mystery that still perplexes scientists more than half a century after they were discovered. This phenomenon has created interesting questions for Baylor University’s Peter B. James, Ph.D., assistant professor of planetary geophysics and founder of Baylor’s Planetary Research Group (PRG), which specializes in the use of spacecraft-derived gravity fields to study the crusts and mantles of planets and moons in the solar system. 

Allie North, a sophomore Science Research Fellow at Baylor, is leading the effort of working to understand the density of moon volcanoes, including the Gruithuisen Domes. This is especially timely since NASA recently announced, as part of its Artemis lunar exploration plans, it will send two new science instrument suites to the moon in an upcoming commercial mission, including one that will land on the Gruithuisen Domes for the first time. 

North’s research will be instrumental in preparing for this and other missions by providing information on the density of the rock that makes up the formations, further expanding on theories of how they were created and identifying objectives for future human space exploration.

This research, led by James, strategically positions Baylor to be involved with future lunar science research. North presented the PRG’s analysis results for the Gruithuisen Domes at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in March. She plans on continuing her education in graduate school and aims for a career in planetary geosciences.