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Lunar and Planetary Laboratory vs. Steward Observatory

  1. Oct 18, 2015 #1
    Hi there,

    The University of Arizona has these two institutes (among many others, of course):
    - Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, LPL for short
    - Steward Observatory
    As far as I understand, both are into space research and astronomy. If I wanted to join either one or the other, I would have no clue so far. So, what's the difference between the two?

    Many thanks,

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    You probably won't be joining one or the other until you get there, right? And once you get there, you will be in a good position to see the difference, right?
  4. Oct 18, 2015 #3


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    Are you going to Arizona, or considering it, for graduate or for undergraduate work?

    Both institutes have extensive web sites, and the Wikipedia pages about them appear to have good summaries of their activities.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
  5. Oct 26, 2015 #4
    So, if I understand this right based on the Wiki articles, the LPL is a planetary sciences institute embracing all kinds of science disciplines and subdisciplines from physics,
    chemistry, meteorology, geology, biology to study solar system objects with their own built space instruments. So it's an institute that actually goes into space and makes in-situ measurements with "real" stuff like rocks, etc. So it's a hands-on institute as much as planetary science can possibly be.
    Meanwhile, the Steward observatory is an institute that is primarily oriented on techniques development and remote observation with telescopes (they are involved in several observatories), rather than working with space instruments flying to objects. With their groups like the imaging lab, adaptive optics lab, mirror lab, the Steward Observatory seems more to work on the advancement of technology behind astronomy.

    In short, the LPL is an in-situ science and space engineering institute, Steward is a remote science and technology institute and thus probably more theoretical than the LPL.
    Am I right with this view?
  6. Oct 27, 2015 #5
    I'm in physics at the U of A. Steward is a fantastic place. I'm not as familiar with LPL, but it also seems to be pretty stellar. LPL is concerned with bodies on a planetary scale; the list that you wrote above encompasses it pretty well. I know a theorist working on his dissertation about white dwarves there, so it's not all experimental/hands-on, necessarily. There are definitely computational and data analysis tasks there if you're interested in those. But projects like HiRISE do have work for those of us who want to build physical tools for planetary science.

    Steward goes to different scales and has impressive resources. If you're interested in hands-on work, Steward is connected to the telescope at Kitt Peak. There is also the mirror lab at the U of A, again, if you'd like to construct impressive tools for seeing very old crimson red things or very dangerous black objects, etc. If you're interested in theory, Steward has people for you too. There is also a cosmology group in the physics department that is closely related to Steward.

    The important question here is - where are you in your career? If you are selecting a school for undergrad, you can do research both at LPL and Steward and see what strikes your fancy. I personally know an undergraduate physics & math major who did research on LPL's HiRISE project and then switched to particle physics on the ATLAS experiment for CERN through the U of A's physics department (he's a senior now with a published paper, I believe). So, you've got options here. And, even if you're at the graduate level already, I know grad students who are doing projects in multiple departments, in succession or simultaneously.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2015
  7. Oct 27, 2015 #6
    I looked through your introduction post, and I see that you're interested in the giant magellan telescope and the mirror lab. If you can come to study in the U.S., the U of A is one of the best places to study optics. My friend is an undergraduate optical sciences major here and he started an engineering internship in the mirror lab this semester. (we've also convinced him to add physics as a second major; yay!) He and I are taking 4th-semester physics right now. That should give you an approximate idea of the minimum qualification for joining the mirror lab if you're an undergrad student at Arizona.
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