RAS Ordinary Meeting April 2023

April 2023 OM
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Overview of the NASA Astrophysics Program

Dr. Mark Clampin (Director Astrophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA)


In NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), the Astrophysics Division (APD) studies the universe. It has been an amazing year for NASA Astrophysics, with JWST approaching its first year anniversary of science operations. I will highlight some early results from JWST, and discuss the overall performance of the observatory as we look towards future opportunities. The highest  priority for APD is currently the Roman Space Telescope, which will conduct wide-field near-IR surveys to study dark energy and dark matter. I will review recent progress in developing Roman and its instruments.  APD operates a broad portfolio of missions, ranging from Hubble and Chandra, Explorer missions such as TESS, and small satellites such as Pandora. International collaborations represent a significant component of APD’s portfolio and include JWST, and Hubble. Missions in development include partnerships with the European Space Agency for a gravitational wave observatory, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), and Athena a X-Ray Observatory. APD’s current priorities are set by the 2020 National Academies Decadal Survey. I will review these recommendations, and discuss APD’s response to the recommendation for a future great observatory, the Habitable Worlds Observatory.


Dr. Mark Clampin is the Astrophysics Division Director in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Until August 2022, he was the Director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate (SED) at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) leading the Astrophysics, Solar System, Heliophysics and Earth Science Divisions, together with the high performance computing office. At GSFC, he previously served as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Observatory Project Scientist, and as Director of the Astrophysics Science Division and Deputy Director of SED.  Prior to joining GSFC, Dr Clampin was the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) group lead at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), where he served on the first four Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Servicing Missions. Dr. Clampin is a Co-Investigator with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), and  Advanced camera for Surveys (ACS), where he served as the Detector Scientist responsible for the delivery of  three ACS focal plane camera systems. His research interests focus on studying the formation and evolution of planetary systems. Dr. Clampin has also designed ground-based telescope instruments including adaptive optics systems, coronagraphs and detectors. Dr. Clampin graduated from the University of London with a BS in Physics and from the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, with PhD in Astronomy. Dr. Clampin is the recipient of the Meritorious Presidential Rank Award,  NASA’s Exceptional Achievement and Scientific Achievement Medals, and is a Fellow of SPIE, and the Royal Astronomical Society. Until recently he was the Chief Editor of the SPIE peer-reviewed Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments and Systems, a position he held for 7 years. 



Linking intra-plate volcanism to underlying mantle dynamics

Prof Rhodri Davies (Australian National University)

Harold Jeffreys Lectureship 

Most of Earth's volcanism occurs at tectonic plate boundaries, where plates move away from one another to create mid-ocean ridges, or where one plate slides beneath another to form a subduction zone. However, an important and widespread class of volcanism occurs within plates, or across plate boundaries. These so-called intra-plate volcanic provinces, which include the most rapid and voluminous volcanic episodes recorded in Earth’s history, are often associated with mantle plumes, hot buoyant columns that rise from Earth’s core-mantle-boundary to its surface.

It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that several of these provinces cannot be explained by the mantle plume hypothesis and are likely driven by alternative mechanisms that involve the interplay between mantle flow and the base of Earth’s rigid outermost shell - the lithosphere. The applicability and relative importance of these mechanisms, however, remains unclear, and likely varies from one geological setting to the next. In this talk, I will showcase recent efforts to reveal the dynamical mechanisms underpinning Earth’s intra-plate volcanic provinces, through observational geodynamics, where observational constraints from across the geosciences are fused and integrated with fundamental physical laws encoded in multi-resolution geodynamical models. Particular attention will be paid to those provinces that lie within, or adjacent to, Earth’s continents.


Professor Rhodri Davies is a computational and observational geodynamicist based at the Australian National University’s (ANU) Research School of Earth Sciences (RSES). He is internationally recognised and awarded for research that links the evolution of Earth’s surface to dynamical processes within its interior. He has developed some of the most advanced tools available for simulating geodynamical processes and used these, alongside a variety of observational datasets, to enhance understanding of mantle dynamics and its signature at the surface, across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Professor Davies is a former 1851 research fellow, NERC post-doctoral research fellow (both Imperial College London) and ARC Future Fellow (ANU).  Amongst other awards, he has received the European Geosciences Union’s Outstanding Young Scientist Award (2014) and the Australian Academy of Sciences’ Anton Hales Medal (2018), in recognition of his novel and outstanding contributions to research in the Earth Sciences. 


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Venue Address

The Geological Society,Burlington House,LONDON


51.5087877, -0.13876359999995