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Ji-In Jung receives NASA award

The geophysics PhD student has been awarded by the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) competition. 

Earth's Moon
Image credit NASA Unsplash

A research project led by Ji-In Jung, a PhD student in geophysics, has been selected amongst 835 proposals to the 2021 Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) competition. The FINESST program supports graduate student-designed and performed research projects that contribute to the Science Mission Directorate’s science, technology and exploration goals.

Ji-In Jung
Ji-In Jung

Jung works with assistant professor of geophysics Sonia Tikoo-Schantz to understand the past behavior of the Moon’s magnetic field. Although the Moon today has no magnetic field, the ancient Moon produced a high surface field between about 3.9 and 3.5 billion years ago that was comparable to the Earth’s field today. Her project, Assessing Paleointensity Variability During the Lunar High Field Epoch,” aims to evaluate changes in the strength of the magnetic field over the Moon’s history.

“Over the past decade, our understanding of the Moon’s magnetic field evolution has been rapidly transformed by lunar paleomagnetism and crustal magnetism studies,” Jung said. “During this lunar high field epoch, however, one unresolved mystery is a large paleointensity variability up to few orders of magnitude observed from the Apollo-era dataset.”

Jung will evaluate possible causes of paleointensity variability – changes in the strength of the magnetic field – by conducting paleomagnetic investigations on Apollo 11 mare basalt samples, including two that have not been previously studied. She will also be analyzing Apollo-era and modern datasets to identify the origin and mechanisms behind the formation of the Moon’s magnetism via its dynamo, the churning of its core.

“Several mechanisms that power the early lunar dynamo have been suggested,” Jung said. “Our study will help identify the origin of the paleointensity variability during the high field epoch and help distinguish between proposed lunar dynamo models.”

The research will contribute to researchers’ understanding of lunar core processes and dynamo evolution – foundational elements of the Moon’s formation – and may offer clues about processes that occur throughout the Solar System.

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