Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Characterizing The Undergraduate Planetarium Learning Environment & Investigating Obliquity-Induced Changes to Heavy Ion Loss At Mars Public Deposited

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  • Three studies are described in this work detailing research efforts in two avenues of astrophysical and planetary science. PLUS (the PLanetarium Usage Survey) and PLOBS (the PLanetarium OBservation Study) investigated the use of the planetarium learning environment in order to characterize the environment's use in the education of undergraduate learners in the astrophysical and planetary sciences. PLUS, a nationwide survey and interview protocol, established an understanding of present-day collegiate planetarium use: what contents were shown, how often were planetariums being used, and how and why were particular content styles chosen for presentation to undergraduates. PLOBS, a university-specific survey and observation campaign, investigated how a university faculty used the planetarium: why did they integrate planetarium visits in their courses, how did their lessons commence, and how did the planetarium environment compare to its complementary classroom environment. Together, PLUS and PLOBS suggested a collegiate planetarium learning experience focused predominantly on non-major, lower division astronomy content presented to learners for the purpose of providing immersive, visual scaffolding. Learning processes in the planetarium showed a high degree of overlap with those in the classroom setting and a measurable decrease in certain reformed practices, suggesting planetarium lessons involve more passive learning strategies than those in the classroom. MOP (the Mars Obliquity Project) investigated the effects of the chaotic Martian obliquity cycle on the rate at which Mars loses its atmosphere to space. Using a multifluid, magnetohydrodynamic simulator engine to probe six experimental cases of the Mars-solar wind interaction, MOP analyzed the changes to the escape of three heavy ion species (O+, O2+, and CO2+) from Mars with the remnant crustal fields on the planet's night side as the planet's obliquity angle was changed. Escape rate calculations demonstrated a measurable, but minor effect on heavy ion loss as a function of planetary obliquity angle, with the heaviest ions showing the greatest sensitivity to changing planetary obliquity. Implications of calculated escape rates suggest magnetic shielding of atmospheric particles is a minor player in the atmospheric evolution of a planet, with gravity being the dominating factor.

Date Issued
  • 2021-01-12
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  • 2022-12-13
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