Kynan Hughson, PhD
Planetary Research Scientist
Kynan is a Planetary Research Scientist in the Planetary Habitability and Technology Lab at The Georgia Institute of Technology. He works on understanding the geological, geophysical, and hydrological processes that shape the surfaces of icy asteroids and worlds in our solar system.
Kynan obtained his B.Sc. in Geology and Physics at the University of New Brunswick with honours in geology, a minor in math, and a focus on impact cratering and shock metamorphism. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics at the University of California Los Angeles. During his graduate studies at UCLA, Kynan contributed to the geologic mapping of the dwarf planet Ceres, a multi-year effort that produced the first global map of any dwarf planet in our solar system. His research focused on the links between observable surface features on Ceres, such as landslides, impact craters, and valleys, and what they tell us about its internal structure and composition. In conjunction with other Dawn Team members, Kynan’s work established that, like Earth and Mars, Ceres has abundant reserves of ground ice.
Kynan’s current and proposed research takes aim at better understanding periglacial and groundwater processes on Earth, Mars, Ceres, and icy moons through a combination of observation, computer modeling, and the geophysical examination of terrestrial polar analogs. He also works on future exploration technologies for accessing the deep subsurface oceans of many icy moon, and for high-detail mapping of ground ice on Mars and Ceres. Kynan recently received funding for his Pingo SubTerranean Aquifer Reconnaissance and Reconstruction (Pingo STARR) project through NASA's Planetary Science and Technology through Analog Research (PSTAR) program. Pingo STARR is a four-year (2020-2024) field campaign using geophysical methods to examine the subsurface structure of Pingos.
Kynan and his wife, Michelle, currently live in Atlanta, where they enjoy backcountry camping, board games, and ballroom dancing.
Current and Recent Research
Pingos and hydrologic systems
Pingos are ice-cored hills that grow in permafrost conditions on the Earth. Thanks to spacecraft observations, we know there are similar looking features on Mars and Ceres. This ongoing research aims to better determine if these enigmatic alien hills are hydrologically related to pingos.
Mechanical properties of cerean material
The topographic expressions of valleys, scarps, and cliffs are directly related to the structural and mechanical properties of the subsurface. This research examined the mechanical and structural properties of Ceres below Nar Sulcus, a unique fracture system located within the Yalode crater.
Impact cratering of frozen worlds
A fraction of craters on Mars, Ganymede, Charon, and Ceres exhibit unusual lobate ejecta morphologies. These flows of ejected material are thought to be due to the presence of ice in the subsurface. This research explores the implications of lobate ejecta on the surface properties of Ceres.
Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2021), The case for pingo-like hills on Ceres from morphometric analysis and comparative planetology. Geology. Submitted
Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2019), Fluidized appearing ejecta on Ceres: Implications for the mechanical properties, frictional properties, and composition of its shallow subsurface, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005666
Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2019), Normal faults on Ceres: Insights into the mechanical properties and thermal history of Nar Sulcus, Geophysical Research Letters 46, 80-88. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL080258
Hughson, K. H. G., et al. (2018), The Ac‐5 (Fejokoo) quadrangle of Ceres: Geologic map and geomorphological evidence for ground ice mediated surface processes, Icarus 316, 63-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.09.035
Schenk, P., et al. (2021), Compositional Control on Impact Crater Formation on Mid-sized Planetary Bodies: Dawn at Ceres and Vesta, Cassini at Saturn. Icarus. Accepted
Schimdt, B. E., et al. (2020), Post-impact cryo-hydrologic formation of small mounds and hills in Ceres’s Occator crater, Nature Geoscience. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-020-0581-6
Park, R. S., et al. (2020), Evidence of non-uniform crust of Ceres from Dawn’s high-resolution gravity data, Nature Astronomy 4, 748-755. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1019-1
Castillo-Rogez, J., et al. (2020), Science Motivations for the Future Exploration of Ceres. Community White Paper for the Planetary Decadal Survey, 2023-2032. https://tinyurl.com/y3bjp6jt
Duarte, K. D., et al. (2019), Landslides on Ceres: Diversity and Geologic Context, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005673
Chilton, H. T., et al. (2019), Landslides on Ceres: Inferences into ice content and layering in the upper crust, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005634
Ermakov, A. I., et al. (2019), Surface Roughness and Gravitational Slope Distributions of Vesta and Ceres, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005813
Singh, S., et al. (2019), Mineralogy mapping of the Ac-H-5 Fejokoo quadrangle of Ceres, Icarus 318, 147-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2018.08.025
Combe, J. ‐P., et al. (2019), Exposed H2O‐rich areas detected on Ceres with the dawn visible and infrared mapping spectrometer, Icarus 318, 22-41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.12.008
Buczkowski, D. L. , et al. (2018), Floor-Fractured Craters on Ceres and Implications for Interior Processes, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 123, 3188-3204. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005632
Sizemore, H. G., et al. (2018), A Global Inventory of Ice‐Related Morphological Features on Dwarf Planet Ceres: Implications for the evolution and current state of the cryosphere, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JE005699
Platz, T., et al. (2018), Geological mapping of the Ac-10 Rongo Quadrangle of Ceres, Icarus 316, 140-153. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.08.001
Scully, J. E. C., et al. (2018), Ceres’ Ezinu quadrangle: A heavily cratered region with evidence for localized subsurface water ice and the context for Occator crater, Icarus 316, 46-62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.10.038
Ruesch, O., et al. (2018), Geology of Ceres’ north pole quadrangle with Dawn FC imaging data, Icarus 316, 14-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2017.09.036
Sizemore, H. G., et al. (2017), Pitted terrains on (1) Ceres and implications for shallow subsurface volatile distribution, Geophysical Research Letters 44, 6570-6578. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL073970
Schmidt, B. E., et al. (2017), Geomorphological evidence for ground ice on dwarf planet Ceres, Nature Geoscience 10, 338-343. https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2936
Buczkowski, D. L., et al. (2016), The geomorphology of Ceres, Science 353, Issue 6303. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf4332
Combe, J. ‐P., et al. (2016), Detection of local H2O exposed at the surface of Ceres, Science 353, Issue 6303. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaf3010
August 10, 2020
The 'Pingo' Connection: Making a Data Mountain out of Ice-Cored Hills — on Earth and a Dwarf Planet
High-resolution Dawn data reveal small hills in Occator Crater not previously resolved. the Shape and distribution of these hills imply a cryohydrologic origin.
College of Sciences