Taylor’s study spins off to other planets

The following article was written by Jason Guriel, a first-year graduate student in English, and York’s 2002-2003 York SPARK student (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge).

It is a testament to the unity of our vast universe that the study of one planet can benefit the study of other distant and unexplored planets. Peter Taylor (right), professor of atmospheric science, Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, is currently demonstrating this amazing fact.

Seeking to better understand the Earth’s atmosphere, scientists have spent years studying how the warming and cooling of the ground impacts upon the boundary layer (roughly, the first kilometer of the atmosphere, beginning at the surface).

Through computer modeling, Taylor and members of his research team are attempting to improve existing models of the Earth’s atmosphere – models that may also prove useful in better understanding the atmosphere of another planet: Mars (pictured above, left). Ultimately, Taylor’s computer model may help scientists find how ice from under the Martian surface is exchanged with the Martian atmosphere.

In fact, two Canadian companies, Optech and M.D. Robotics, are using information derived from Taylor’s work to help design an instrument package, including a LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging instrument), to observe the boundary layer of Mars. This would become part of a project, involving NASA and the University of Arizona, seeking to develop a lander called PHOENIX, destined for the Martian surface.

Taylor’s work embodies the innovative and highly collaborative spirit of York University. And by applying models of the Earth to Mars, York researchers like Taylor reveal a unique ability to extend their imaginations beyond the limits of existing knowledge.

Of course, by focusing on real-world objectives like the exploration of Mars, York is once again redefining the pursuit of innovation. And redefining the possible.

SPARK was launched in 1999 at 10 universities across Canada. Through SPARK, students with an aptitude for communications are recruited, trained and paid to write stories based on NSERC-supported research at participating universities