UNB’s Planetary and Space Science Centre wins international award
The University of New Brunswick’s Planetary and Space Science Centre (PASSC) has been honoured with receiving the 2011 “Best Website Award” by the Geological Society of America’s Geoscience Information Society (GSIS).
The award is for PASSC’s Earth Impact Database, which provides comprehensive data on all scientifically proven impact craters on our planet’s surface (currently totalling 182).
The Earth Impact Database is the primary global database for craters, and PASSC’s website receives approximately 60,000 hits per year from 156 countries/territories and this number is increasing.
“As we have grown to appreciate the role that the hypervelocity impact of asteroids and comets has played in the formation and evolution of planetary bodies, interest has also increased in our terrestrial crater inventory. A major focus of PASSC’s operations is research of complex impact structures and relating their formation and evolution to other craters developed on Earth and on other planets in our solar system.
PASSC has one of the largest research groups in the world devoted to the investigation of high-speed impact and shock processes, and this research has resulted in collaborations with industry, such as mining companies, due to the fact that ore deposits can be a direct result of the impact process,” says Dr. John Spray, Director of PASSC.
Inherited from the Geological Survey of Canada in 1999, PASSC has continued to develop and enhance the Earth Impact Database and this important crater record forms part of the sole Canadian NASA-affiliated Regional Planetary Image Facility (RPIF), which is managed by PASSC.
“This award came as a complete surprise,” he says. “We have put much effort into our Earth Impact Database over the years to ensure that it is regularly updated and expanded. The website has been maintained by PASSC research scientists and PASSC-employed undergraduate students, and has proven to be a great training opportunity”.
“It’s both a responsibility and a challenge to maintain operation of the website, especially as I must generate the funds to operate it, but receiving the GSIS recognition certainly makes it worthwhile,” says Dr. Spray.
The annual cost of maintaining this site is approximately $50,000/year, which assists in supporting the salary and operational costs for the RPIF Data Manager who oversees the database, a position currently held by Beverley Elliott who received her MSc in Geology at UNB.
The award was presented in October at the 2011 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting held in Minneapolis. No PASSC team members were able to
attend the meeting; however, Harrison (Jack) Schmitt, an Apollo 17 astronaut and colleague of Dr. Spray’s, graciously accepted the award on PASSC’s behalf.
“Jack was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UNB in 1999, and his visit at that time facilitated new PASSC research on lunar rocks involving samples he collected during his lunar exploration. Jack has been the only scientist to date to walk on the Moon and, as a geologist who sampled the Moon’s surface, which is covered in thousands of impact craters, he was able to guide us in initiating new lunar studies here at UNB, so it is particularly fitting that he accepted the award on PASSC’s behalf.” says Dr. Spray.