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  • 'Expedition Titan' turns Saturn's moon into a mixed-reality thrill ride | GeekWire
    Wednesday, May 4, 2022
    It's doubtful anyone alive today will get to ride through the ice volcanoes of Saturn's largest moon -- but you can do the next best thing at Seattle's Pacific Science Center, thanks to a mixed-reality experience called Expedition Titan. Baptiste Journaux, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • Experiments measure freezing point of extraterrestrial oceans to aid search for life
    Tuesday, May 3, 2022

    Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley have conducted experiments that measured the physical limits for the existence of liquid water in icy extraterrestrial worlds. This blend of geoscience and engineering was done to aid in the search for extraterrestrial life and the upcoming robotic exploration of oceans on moons of other planets.

    The results were recently published in Cell Reports Physical Sciences.

    "The more a liquid is stable, the more promising it is for habitability," said co-corresponding author Baptiste Journaux, an acting assistant professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW. "Our results show that the cold, salty, high-pressure liquids found in the deep ocean of other planets' moons can remain liquid to much cooler temperature than they would at lower pressures. This extends the range of possible habitats on icy moons, and will allow us to pinpoint where we should look for biosignatures, or signs of life."

    Europa Image

    This image, taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1996, shows two views of Jupiter’s ice-covered satellite, Europa. The left image shows the approximate natural color while the right is colored to accentuate features. Europa is about 3,160 kilometers (1,950 miles) in diameter, or about the size of Earth’s moon.NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

    Jupiter and Saturn's icy moons -- including Europa, Ganymede and Titan -- are leading candidates within our solar system for hosting extraterrestrial life. These ice-encrusted moons are thoughtto harbor enormous liquid oceans, up to several dozen times the volume of oceans on Earth.

    "Despite its designation as the 'blue marble,' Earth is remarkably dry when compared to these worlds," Journaux said.

    cutout view of Europa

    The left panel's gray and blue layers show the deep, ice-covered ocean on Europa, a moon of Jupiter that could host extraterrestrial life. This ocean is thought to be much deeper than oceans on Earth. New research hints at where liquid water might be found in these environments.Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech, with modifications by Baptiste Journaux

    The oceans on these moons may contain various types of salts and are expected to range from about 100 miles deep, on Europa, to more than 400 miles deep, on Titan.

    "We know that water supports life, but the major part of the oceans on these moons are likely below zero degrees Celsius and at pressures higher than anything experienced on Earth," Journaux said. "We needed to know how cold an ocean can get before entirely freezing, including in its deepest abyss."

    The study focused on eutectics, or the lowest temperature that a salty solution can remain liquid before entirely freezing. Salt and water are one example -- salty water remains liquid below the freezing temperature of pure water, one of the reasons people sprinkle salt on roads in winter to avoid the formation of ice.

    UC Berkeley: "Study of aqueous salt solutions deepens our understanding of icy planets' oceans"

    The experiments used UC Berkeley equipment originally designed for the future cryopreservation of organs for medical applications and for food storage. For this research, however, the authors used it to simulate the conditions thought to exist on other planets' moons.

    Journaux, a planetary scientist and expert on the physics of water and minerals, worked with UC Berkeley engineers to test solutions of five different salts at pressures up to 3,000 times atmospheric pressure, or 300 megapascals -- about three times the pressure in Earth's deepest ocean trench.

    "Knowing the lowest temperature possible for salty water to remain a liquid at high pressures is integral to understanding how extraterrestrial life could exist and thrive in the deep oceans of these icy ocean worlds," said co-corresponding author Matthew Powell-Palm, who did the work as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, also co-founder and CEO of the cryopreservation company BioChoric, Inc.

    Journaux recently started working with NASA's Dragonfly mission team, which will send a rotorcraft in 2027 to Saturn's largest moon, Titan. NASA also is leading the Europa Clipper mission in 2024 to explore Europa, one of the many moons orbiting Jupiter. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency in 2023 will send its JUICE spacecraft, or Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, to explore three of Jupiter's largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

    "The new data obtained from this study may help further researchers' understanding of the complex geological processes observed in these icy ocean worlds," Journaux said.

    Other authors are Boris Rubinsky, Brooke Chang, Anthony Consiglio, Drew Lilley and Ravi Prasher, all at UC Berkeley. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.


    For more information, contact Journaux at or Powell-Palm at

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  • Devastating ice age floods that occurred in the pacific northwest fascinate scientists | Smithsonian Magazine
    Wednesday, April 20, 2022
    The Scablands were formed by tremendous and rapid change, and may have something to teach us about geological processes on Mars. Kelsay Stanton, a doctoral student in Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • Forensic seismology reveals details of nearly-simultaneous (but unrelated) explosion and fireball
    Friday, April 15, 2022
    Updates to PNSN investigations about recent mystery booms on Orcas Island. Part of the mystery was a fireball high in the atmosphere seen around the same time as probably man-made explosions on the island. In an update to the post, Paul Bodin elaborates on this fireball, which created signals that reached all the way to Mt Rainier. Read More
  • Discovering the cause of mystery booms on Orcas Island | KUOW
    Friday, April 1, 2022
    Steve Malone, research professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences at the UW, discusses using seismic readings for tracking down the causes of the noise. Read More
  • Food grown on regenerative farms could actually be healthier for you | Modern Farmer
    Friday, April 1, 2022
    A preliminary study led by UW's David Montgomery looks at the link between regenerative agriculture methods and their impact on food nutrients. Read More
  • When a Seattle Earthquake Zone fault is detected by your house | The Seattle Times
    Friday, April 1, 2022
    Earthquakes are personal. Amid all the descriptions of generalized suffering lies your own story. And mine. Bernard Hallet, professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is mentioned. Read More
  • Opinion: Exploring subduction zone geohazards on land and at sea | Eos
    Friday, March 25, 2022
    "Understanding the various types of Earth surface disturbances in subduction zone landscapes and seascapes -- and the cascading impacts of these disturbances -- has enormous practical importance because they pose substantial hazards to the ecosystems, communities, and infrastructure in these areas," write Alison Duvall, associate professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW; Mong-Han Huang of the University of Maryland, College Park; Kristin Morell of the University of California, Santa Barbara; Sean F. Gallen of Colorado State University; and George E. Hilley of Stanford University. Read More
  • Statement from UW President on tragic deaths of two UW community members
    Monday, March 21, 2022

    The following is a statement from University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce following the news that a UW professor and a UW staff member were killed while diving off the coast of Mexico over the weekend. Evan Abramson was a research professor in the Department of Earth & Space Sciences who joined the UW 1988, with a brief stint in the 1990s at Brookhaven National Laboratories. Tom Schaefer, who earned a master's degree in oceanography at the UW, served in the School of Social Work for over 25 years and volunteered as an educator with the Seattle Aquarium and Pacific Marine Research since 1985.

    Evan Abramson

    Evan Abramson

    "The University of Washington community is heartbroken over the tragic deaths of Evan Abramson and Tom Schaefer. Both had strong ties to our University community and we join their colleagues and loved ones in mourning this terrible loss.

    "In his work as a research professor in Earth and space sciences, Evan studied the properties of materials at high pressure, with his recent scholarship advancing science that helps us better understand the icy worlds in and beyond our solar system.

    Tom Schaefer

    Tom Schaefer

    "And over the course of 25 years with the School of Social Work, Tom contributed to the success of the faculty, staff and students of the school by ensuring its spaces and facilities were comfortable and met their needs as scholars and professionals.

    "Both Evan and Tom contributed immeasurably to our University community during their time at the UW, and that community should now come together to extend our condolences to their families and friends. We hope that their loved ones will find peace in memories of happier times."

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  • Isolab and Ice core research featured on KUOW’s SoundSide
    Monday, March 21, 2022
    ESS Chair Eric Steig was featured on KUOW talking about his research on ice cores. IsoLab, and the work of grad student Gemma O’Connor, are featured. Read More