15 December 2010

AGU Fall Meeting 2010: Tuesday Dec. 14

Posted by Jessica Ball

A potential cryovolcano region on Titan. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS/University of Arizona

What a day! After pulling my attention away from the hassles of actually getting to AGU, I dove right into the meeting with some posters in the Volcanology, Geochemistry and Petrology session. Several were particularly interesting to me, since I study lava domes and their hydrothermal systems:

V21E-2368: Assessment of Glassy and Vesicular Textures on Silicic Lava Domes through Analysis of Ground-based and Airborne LIDAR Data (S W Anderson, D C Finnegan, M Bulmer)

V21E-2360: Evidence for a fracture dominated hydrothermal system at St. George’s Hill, Montserrat (C.L. Kenedi and G. Ryan)

I sat in on the Cassini mission press conference about cryovolcanoes/plasma on Titan, and I was really impressed – I don’t have much chance to check out planetary geology beyond my department, and the topographic images produced from radar on Titan were very exciting. The gist of the press conference was twofold: 3D topography created from Cassini’s radar images of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, has revealed an alignment of mountains with summit craters. The research team has suggested that these may be cryovolcanoes, erupting water or even hydrocarbons, and may account for the steady supply of methane in Titan’s atmosphere. Further out in space, the focus was on periodic plasma bursts that seem to be associated with Saturn’s magnetic field and radio signals. The periodicity (described as an “unbalanced load of laundry on spin cycle”) is curious, since planets that typically display periodicity in these types of phenomena also have magnetic poles which deviate from their axis of rotation; in Saturn, these are assumed to line up (i.e., Saturn has no “tilt”).

Lunch was a great discussion with my fellow AGU geobloggers about the AGU Blogosphere and where it will go in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing the whole crowd at the geobloggers lunch tomorrow!

In the afternoon I spent a little time listening to talks on geothermal exploration and super-eruptions (we may have less to fear from these than from smaller ones!) Too much to summarize here, but I’d like to come back to those for future posts.

Today (Wed) is another busy time for me; I’ll be presenting a poster this morning in the Volcanology/Geochemistry/Petrology session, going to a press conference about volcanic ash, and joining my fellow geobloggers for our annual luncheon. (And, hopefully, getting out to see some of the city – it’s actually sunny today!)