Dr. Julie Stopar
The Moon, our nearest neighbor, is a fascinating destination for future study and exploration. I’ve played an active role since 2007 in both the science and operations of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), a suite of cameras currently in orbit around the Moon on NASA Goddard’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. One of the main, ongoing objectives of the LRO mission is to collect the data necessary to plan future exploration of the Moon’s surface. The combined LRO-LROC data set is ideal for investigations in lunar science, geology, and exploration, including collaborative investigations amongst universities, the LPI, researchers, and NASA centers. As more and more data are available, scientists are able to address new and more complex questions -- sometimes the results are quite surprising!
My current research focuses on answering key lunar science questions relating to the geology and evolution of the surface, beginning with interpretations of the unprecedented LROC data set. Meter-scale morphologic information provided by LROC observations forms a basis for interpreting the geology of many landforms on the lunar surface, especially when combined with compositional information. The same observations are also very useful from a mission-planning perspective, allowing planners to constrain hardware capabilities and navigation requirements. My studies include the characterization and interpretation of lunar volcanic deposits (formation mechanisms of small vents and localized pyroclastics and lava flows), impact melt deposits (how and when they form during the cratering processes), simple impact craters (how their shapes, including those of secondary impacts, are affected by differing target properties), and regolith (what the uppermost, fragmental surface implies about the geologic history of a region or landform).
My other research interests include low-temperature interactions between minerals and liquid water throughout the Solar System, including aqueous alteration on Mars, and potential reactions between minerals and sequestered water-ice at the lunar poles.