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#UrsinusSummer: Deep Impact

Planets and planet surfaces begin as blank slates before asteroids and meteors cause impact craters. Over time, thousands, or even millions of craters of all sizes form on the surface of planets and moons. Micah Cloward ’20 is spending his time as a Summer Fellow working on a computer program that can count these craters by scanning images, a task that could help better determine the age and provide a better understanding of the overall surface of the subjects.


Faculty Mentor: Kassandra Martin-Wells, Physics and Astronomy

Cloward is specifically working with images of the Earth’s moon to test the computer program. There are plenty of variables that make this process anything but straightforward. 

“In the satellite images we’re using, the sun isn’t always in the same position so the craters can look different. You have to teach the computer program how to identify what a crater actually looks like as opposed to just a valley or a circle you put there. It’s the shadows or the angle of the impact crater of itself that can really change how it looks,” Cloward explains. 

The project is a combination of computer science and astronomy, and Cloward has been spending the summer researching both. While the main hands-on work is dealing with programming, he spends time reading about crater shadows and the work of physicists so that he can better understand what to look for. His advisor, Kassandra Martin-Wells, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, has been helping Cloward learn a new computer programming language in order to complete the project.