Dr. Lang receives grant to study Venus

Have you ever looked into the night sky and wondered what else has yet to be discovered?

Mercyhurst University Assistant Professor of Geology Nick Lang, Ph.D., has always had this curiosity. Lang is so passionate about this subject that he has now become a primary source of discovery.
Sami Rapp photoSami Rapp photo

Lang recently received a $100,000 research grant from NASA to study the surface of Venus over the course of two years.

This research, conducted alongside Boston University Senior Researcher Brad Thomson, will consist largely of examining small volcanoes on the planet’s surface in hopes of unlocking the secrets of its geological history and age.

Lang said, “Impact craters provide a way to obtain an absolute age for a planet’s surface, but you need thousands of impact craters in order to do that – this is how we can obtain ages for different parts of the Moon and Mars. Since Venus only has 1,000 craters, we cannot get an absolute age for the planet’s surface.”

The low amount of impact craters found on Venus supplies the mystery that fuels Lang’s research.

This abnormality suggests that a great many craters have been erased from the surface of Venus, and it is the researchers’ mission to find out how, when, and why this erasure has taken place.

Much of the content for the study will come from radar imagery of Venus’ surface collected in the 1990s from NASA’s Magellan mission; the most recent U.S. mission to travel to Venus.

This is the second research grant that Lang has received from NASA. His first study was funded in 2008 and focused on finding reasons for the variance in volcanic styles on Mars.

“This is a great honor to receive a grant from NASA. Both Brad and I are very excited. There is a lot of work and effort that goes into writing a proposal with no guarantee it will end up being funded. To be awarded this project is humbling because so few proposals are chosen each time,” said Lang.

Although he and his partner have already begun their first stages of research, Lang will also recruit the help of a Mercyhurst University student. The student will assist in creating geological maps of Venus’ volcanoes. This currently undetermined position will cover a 10 week period in the summer of 2013.