(205) 934-8032, agresti@phy.uab.edu

The Chemical and Mineralogical Composition of Extraterrestrial Bodies

My work focuses on materials of extraterrestrial origin and their terrestrial and laboratory-produced analogues. With Physics faculty colleague Edward Wills and collaborators at NASA Johnson Space Center, my group is involved in the development and evaluation of a soft-drink sized backscatter M ssbauer spectrometer (BaMS), a nuclear gamma-resonance device designed to be placed on the surface of Mars, the moon, or an asteroid. BaMS will yield information about the chemical and mineralogical composition of iron-containing surface materials and hence help in the understanding of the history of these extraterrestrial bodies and support their eventual visit by humans. As part of the project, my group is studying how data statistics and extent of mixing of mineral phases affect the ability of BaMS to determine the mineralogy of a planetary surface. Development of a library of spectra of possible Martian surface materials is underway. With UAB astrophysicist Tom Wdowiak, we are investigating material from bacterial colonies associated with deep-sea volcanic vents to determine whether BaMS might provide a way to search for early life on Mars. This work is supported by grants from NASA headquarters and Marshall Space Flight Center.



Recent Publications: