Mackwell Has Asteroid Named After Him

March 8, 2016

Stephen J. Mackwell

Stephen J. Mackwell, Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, Texas, has been honored by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) with the naming of main-belt asteroid (5292) Mackwell (formerly designated as 1991 AJ1). It is a fitting honor for Mackwell, who is a valued steward of the science community, known for his studies of the deformation of rocks and minerals at high-temperature and high-pressure conditions, relevant to the lithospheres and interiors of the terrestrial planets.

Hitoshi Shiozawa and Minoru Kizawa originally discovered asteroid (5292) Mackwell on January 12, 1991, in Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. (5292) Mackwell has an absolute magnitude of 11.9, and is part of the main asteroid belt, which is located between the orbits of planets Mars and Jupiter.

Mackwell performs research into the dynamics of the lithospheres and interiors of the terrestrial planets through experimental studies of the deformation of rocks and minerals at high-temperature and pressure conditions. Such studies have focused on the mechanical behavior of rocks of basaltic composition, as well as upper mantle rocks and minerals. Particular attention has been paid to the role of chemical environment, notably the water and oxygen partial pressures. Weakening effects due to textural evolution during high-strain deformation have also been studied.

Mackwell also investigates the role of chemical environment on diffusion within minerals and on kinetics of mineral reactions. In particular, he has focused on the rates of water uptake and loss from minerals in mantle xenoliths during transport from the mantle source region, with implications for the water content of Earth’s interior. His work on mineral reactions during high-temperature experiments has enabled calculation of grain boundary diffusion rates in polymineralic aggregates, with implications for phase transition kinetics and rheological behavior.

Before coming to the LPI in 2002, Mackwell was Director of the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth, Germany. He has been the recipient of numerous honors, including Fellow of the American Geophysical Union; Stipendiat der Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Bayreuth, Germany; Ministère de L’Education Nationale, Academie de Lille, Nommé Professeur; and Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America. He has also served on the editorial board of numerous prestigious planetary science journals, including serving as editor-in-chief for Geophysical Research Letters from 2002 to 2004.


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Last updated March 9, 2016