Kathryn Steakley » Planetary Group

Kathryn Steakley

Graduate Student NMSUAstronomy
575.646.4834 Personal page

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Biographical Info


My research focuses on Martian climate and surface-atmosphere interactions on Mars. I work with Dr. Jim Murphy in the planetary group as well as NASA scientists Dr. Melinda Kahre and Dr. Bob Haberle from the NASA Ames Mars Climate Modeling Group. We are investigating the type of climate that could have supported liquid water on Mars roughly 3.5-3.8 billion years ago. Geologic evidence suggests that liquid water eroded river valley networks,  but the climate modeling community still does not know how Mars could have supported a warmer, wetter environment in the past. Specifically, we are testing whether comet and asteroid impacts could have jump-started a water cloud greenhouse for early Mars. I use the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) Mars Global Climate Model (MGCM) to simulate post-impact climate scenarios and test this impact heating hypothesis. I have worked with the NASA Ames team to develop an early Mars version of the Ames Global Climate Model (GCM) in order to conduct these modeling tests. In 2015, I was awarded a NASA Advanced STEM Research Training and Research (ASTAR) fellowship, which supports this research.

I also study dust devils on Mars and their potential connection to the background dust opacity. On Mars, dust devils can become incredibly large, growing to be wider than a football field and over a mile high. We want to understand how often dust devils occur, how much dust they lift (if any), and what factors contribute to or inhibit dust lifting. I worked with Dr. Jim Murphy to detect and characterize dust devils on Mars using meteorological data collected by the Curiosity rover.

I completed a B.S. degree in physics and astronomy in the fall of 2012 at the University of Washington. As an REU student intern at the SETI Institute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), I worked with Dr. Peter Jenniskens on the Cameras for All-Sky Meteor Surveillance (CAMS) project. This project involved determining light curves, altitudes, and latitudes and longitudes of large numbers of meteors caught by the network of video cameras. I identified a previously undocumented meteor stream, now added to the IAU Working List of Meteor Showers.



Field Measurements of Terrestrial and Martian Dust Devils
Murphy, J., Steakley, K., Balme, M., et al. 2016, Space Science Reviews, doi:10.1007/s11214-016-0283-y

A year of convective vortex activity at Gale Crater
Steakley, K., Murphy, J. 2016, Icarus, 278, p. 180–193, doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2016.06.010

Discovery of the February epsilon Virginids (FEV, IAU #506)
Steakley, K., Jenniskens, P. 2013, WGN, Journal of the International Meteor Organization, 41, 109


Meetings Attended
Talk Revisiting the Impact Heating Hypothesis for Early Mars with a 3D GCM
Steakley, K., Kahre, M. A., Murphy, J. R., Haberle, R. M., & Kling, A. 2017, LPI Contributions, 2014, 3074
Poster Exploring Post-Impact Climate Conditions for Early Mars with the Ames GCM
Steakley, K. E., Murphy, J. R., Kahre, M., & Haberle, R. 2017, The Mars Atmosphere: Modelling and observation, 4309
Poster Post-impact climate conditions on early Mars: preliminary results from GCM simulations
Steakley, K., Murphy, J., Kahre, M. A., Haberle, R. M. 2016, AAS Division of Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts, 48, #220.29
Invited Talk Detections of Thermal Convective Vortices at Gale Crater, Mars with MSL
Steakley, K. E., Murphy, J. 2015, Workshop: Dust Devils on Earth and Mars, International Space Science Institute
Talk     Investigating Dust-less Devils at Gale Crater
Steakley, K. E., Murphy, J. R., 2014, AAS Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts, 46, 300.06
Poster     Convective Vortices and Seasonal Variations in the REMS Pressure Data
Steakley K. E., Murphy J. R., Kahanpaa H. 2014, Eighth International Conference on Mars, LPI Contribution No. 1791, p.1036
Poster     Discovery of the February Epsilon Virginids
Kathryn Steakley & P. M. Jenniskens 2013, AASMA, 221, 353.11
Poster     The LINEAR Photometric Database: Time Domain Information for SDSS Objects
M. Veyette et al. 2012, AASMA, 219, 348.19


Teaching Activities
Astr 105 – The Planets Spring 2015
Fall 2014
Spring 2014
Astr 305 – The Search for Life in the Universe Fall 2013


Outreach Activities

Nov 2015: Career Day at Alameda Elementary
Oct 2015: Sierra Middle School Visit Tombaugh Observatory
Sep 2015:
Challenger Learning Center Grand Opening
Jun 2015: PlutoPalooza Family Astronomy Day at Branigan Cultural Center
Jun 2015:
East Picacho Elementary Enrich the Kids Day
May 2015: Sky Safari at Tombaugh Observatory
May 2015: Monte Vista Elementary School Star Night
Apr 2015: Alameda Elementary Family Literacy, Math, and Science Night
Mar 2015: Highland Elementary Math and Science Night
Jan 2015: Solar Telescope Viewing at Farmer’s Market
Dec 2014: Sky Safari at Tombaugh Observatory
Nov 2014: Sierra Middle School Visit Tombaugh Observatory
Sep 2014: Sky Safari at Tombaugh Observatory
Aug 2014 – May 2015: Secretary, Astronomy Graduate Student Organization
Apr 2014: Columbia Elementary Math and Science Night
Feb 2014: Vista Middle School Math and Science Night
Jan 2014: North Valley Elementary Science Night
Jan 2014: New Mexico State University Astronomy Open House
Dec 2013: Sky Safari at Tombaugh Observatory
Sep 2013: Elementary School Visit to Tombaugh Observatory
Aug 2013 – Present: New Mexico State University Campus Observatory Events