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Snowden's Research Page


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Research:

(NASA/JPL)Saturn's largest moon Titan (or that orange blob to the right) has been the target of my research as long as I've been a scientist (image credit: NASA/JPL). Chemistry in Titan's atmosphere produces loads of orange hydrocarbons, making it opaque and shielding our view of Titan's Earth-like surface. As I started graduate school, Huygens probe was about to land on the surface of the moon, and I knew that Cassini’s many Titan flybys would produce an abundance of data for years to come. Therefore, as a graduate student, I chose to investigate the global dynamics of Saturn’s magnetosphere and its interaction with Titan’s atmosphere using a combination of three-dimensional multi-fluid models and comparative data analysis.

 
Model of Titan embedded in Saturn's Magnetosphere

As a postdoc, I broadened my research experience by working directly with Cassini data. I analyzed data from Cassini's Ion Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) to investigate the energetics, chemistry, and dynamics of Titan’s ionosphere, thermosphere, and mesosphere.

Temperature profiles in Titan's thermosphere derived from INMS data

In general, my research involves using numerical models to solve problems at the intersection of space physics and aeronomy. Currently, my focus is on developing global models to simulate how ions and electrons from Saturn’s magnetosphere precipitate into, heat, and ionize Titan’s upper atmosphere.

1-D and 3-D simulations of energy deposition rates in Titan's thermosphere:

 

Rockets and High Altitude Balloons!

         

We also launch rockets and high altitude balloons because they are good platforms for student experiments. In the summer of 2017, a group of students and I launched a balloon into the path of the eclipse. Check out the video below!

Another cool video of our (windy) HAB Academy flight. Check out a video of the balloon popping around 1:50!

 

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