Colloquium: November 4, 2014

Ocean Worlds of the Outer Solar System

Kevin Peter Hand

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 2:00 P.M. in the Pearl Young Theater
(Video of the lecture) within the Langley firewall only


At least five moons in the outer solar system may harbor liquid water oceans. These oceans have likely persisted for much of the history of the solar system and as a result they are highly compelling targets in our search for life beyond Earth. Dr. Hand will explain the science behind why we think we know these oceans exist and what we know about the physical and chemical conditions that likely persist on these worlds. He will focus on the surface chemistry of Jupiter’s moon Europa and connect laboratory spectroscopic measurements to ground and space-based observations of Europa’s surface. He will also show how the study of several extreme environments on Earth are helping to inform our search for habitable environments on distant worlds, while simultaneously providing new insights into Earth’s complex ecosystems.


Image of Kevin HandDr. Kevin P. Hand is Deputy Chief Scientist for Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. His research focuses on the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the solar system with an emphasis on moons of the outer solar system that likely have liquid water oceans. His work involves numerical modeling, laboratory experiments, and field campaigns exploring some of Earth’s most extreme environments. His fieldwork has brought him to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, the depths of the Earth’s oceans, the icy permafrost of Alaska, and to the glaciers of Kilimanjaro. In 2011 he was selected as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. Dr. Hand has been featured in several television documentaries for National Geographic, Discovery, and PBS, and was featured in the IMAX film ‘Aliens of the Deep’. He has made nine dives to the bottom of the ocean. Dr. Hand was also a scientist onboard James Cameron’s 2012 dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. He earned his PhD from Stanford University and bachelors degrees from Dartmouth College. He was born and raised in Manchester, Vermont.

Ingrid Carlberg is hosting our speaker this month.