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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2019 can be found here.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be
U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

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Project:  Computer Simulations of polygonal patterns of vortices on Jupiter
Disciplines:  Planetary Science, Astrophysics
Mentor:  Andrew Ingersoll, Professor of Planetary Science, (GPS),, Phone: 6263766872
Mentor URL:  (opens in new window)
Background:  The Juno spacecraft was the first to fly over the poles of Jupiter, and its two cameras - one in the visible and one in the infrared - discovered cyclonic vortices arranged in polygonal patterns. In the north the central polar cyclone is surrounded by an octagon of cyclones and in the south the central polar cyclone is surrounded by a pentagon of cyclones.

Polygonal arrays of vortices were first discovered in laboratory experiments and in idealized numerical simulations. In the physics community the arrays are known as vortex crystals. The idealization consists of confining the flow to two dimensions, where the fluid is bounded above and below by rigid horizontal planes. Juno is the first to see vortex crystals in a rotating planetary atmosphere, which has the complications of a Coriolis force and an upper boundary that can move up down. The former causes cyclones to drift toward the pole and possibly merge. The latter allows wave propagation and further complicates the effects of rotation.
Description:  Our goal is to model the vortices to see under which conditions the vortices can exist. We have preliminary results using the shallow water equations - a well-studied, relatively simple fluid dynamical system that captures the effects of planetary rotation and wave propagation on the surface of a sphere. The unknown parameters are the average depth of the fluid and the initial conditions of the vortices - their number, size, spin rate, and arrangement in latitude and longitude. We have examples of vortices moving chaotically, merging and/or repelling each other, drifting toward the pole, and often forming stable polygonal patterns like those on Jupiter. But we have not done a systematic study, and we need someone to thoroughly explore parameter space and document vortex behavior in each region.
References:  Adriani et al. Clusters of cyclones encircling Jupier's poles. Nature 555, 216-219 (2018).

Fine et al. Relaxation of 2D turbulence to vortex crystals. Phys. Rev. Lett. 75, 3277-3280 (1995)
Student Requirements:  The qualifications for this position are maturity, punctuality, and thoroughness, because one can easily get lost in a multi-dimensional parameter space, and there are several types of behavior one is looking for. Prior knowledge of fluid dynamics is not a requirement, although one will learn something about fluids along the way. Just showing up at regular bi-weekly meetings is essential. At those meetings we would like to see presentations of what experiments were done and what results were achieved, since we want to keep the computer simulations going day and night. Bi-weekly results will guide what experiments will be done in the following days, and decisions will be made collectively by the three-person research team. The Jupiter vortices have attracted a lot of attention in the fluid dynamics community, so it would be good to have a first paper submitted by mid June, in time for conferences later that month. Therefore priority will be given to a student who can enroll in a 9-unit course during the winter and spring terms and work on this project.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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