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Dordt professor awarded grant through Space Science Institute

Posted: July 28th, 2022
Tags: General, WWW Front Page

Dr. Channon Visscher, associate professor of chemistry and planetary sciences at Dordt University, was awarded a $44,201 grant through the Space Science Institute. The project is called “Precision Tests of the Physics of Mixing in Cool Planetary and Brown Dwarf Atmospheres.”

“In this research we’ll be simulating atmospheric processes for planets outside of our own solar system and for objects known as brown dwarfs, which are objects not quite massive enough to become stars,” says Visscher. “The project will take advantage of the significant improvements expected from the newly-commissioned James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is expected to give us far more detailed information about these objects. Comparing our chemical models with new observational data from JWST will help us figure out the chemical composition, clouds, and weather patterns in the atmospheres of these worlds.”

This grant project is part of a collaborative effort led by researchers from the University of California-Santa Cruz. Visscher will be conducting this research through his joint appointment as Research Scientist with the Space Science Institute, but the work will take place at Dordt, where he will help develop the chemical models for the project team.

Dordt’s mission is to “equip students, alumni, and the broader community to work effectively toward Christ-centered renewal in all areas of contemporary life.” This project allows Visscher to do just that, participating in a research project that is incorporating the latest technology and data from the JWST.

“I’m particularly excited by the fact that this will connect the work that we’re doing here at Dordt with the cutting-edge explorations of the James Webb Space Telescope,” he says. “The JWST is expected to be revolutionary for astronomy, and we’ve already seen some of this with the first publicly released images just this past week of distant galaxies in the deepest parts of the universe.”

Some of the funding for telescopes like the JWST is dedicated toward theoretical investigations like Visscher’s in order to help scientists interpret and better understand what they are looking at. The funding agency for this project is the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which manages science operations for orbital platforms like Hubble and JWST.

“It’s also expected to give us unprecedented views of nearby solar systems we’ve discovered in our own galaxy,” says Visscher. “So, I’m excited to see what new things we’ll learn about these new worlds!”

About Dordt University

As an institution of higher education committed to the Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt University equips students, faculty, alumni, and the broader community to work toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. Located in Sioux Center, Iowa, Dordt is a comprehensive university named to the best college lists by U.S. News and World Report,, Washington Monthly, and Princeton Review.