Victoria Island


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July 1971. Astronauts Charles Duke and John Young are preparing for their Apollo 16 mission to the Moon by carrying out field geology training in and around Sudbury. Why Sudbury? Because it’s the site of one of the world’s largest meteorite impact craters – the scar left by the collision of a 20 km diameter asteroid almost two billion years ago.

Apollo 16 geologic training-exercises in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada 7-9 July 1971; (a) Charles Duke (left) and John Young studying traverse map prepared for them during geologic traverses at Sudbury. Both astronauts have electric Hasselblad cameras, similar to the ones they would use on the Moon, mounted on their chest plates.; NASA photo S-71-39840. USGS Open-File Report 2005-1190, Figure 088a. Image file: /htmlorg/lpb545/land/pap0088a.jpg

Looking at the Moon on a clear night, it’s plain to see that meteorite impact craters are the most common geological feature on Earth’s closest celestial neighbor. And by studying the craters in Sudbury, the Apollo 16 astronauts were actually preparing themselves for what they could expect on the Moon. Fast forward more than half a century and the newest cadre of astronauts are studying planetary geology for the first time since the Apollo missions.

Among these off-world explorers is astronaut Jeremy Hansen, a former Canadian Armed Forces fighter pilot who graduated from NASA Astronaut Candidate Training in 2011. Like Duke and Young, Capt. Hansen’s next small step before his giant leap is receiving hands-on field geology training on Victoria Island (or Kitlineq), a remote part of the Canadian Arctic. Thanks to collaboration between the Canadian Space Agency and Western’s Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX), Capt. Hansen will join CPSX Acting Director Gordon “Oz” Osinski and his research team from Western in the Canadian Arctic this July to investigate reports of a new suspected meteorite impact crater.  Four students from Western will participate: PhD students Cassandra Marion and Raymond Francis, MSc student Annemarie Pickersgill, and undergraduate student Salma Abou-Aly.

The suspected crater was discovered by Geological Survey of Canada geologist Keith Dewing in 2010 but remains to be confirmed and is completely unexplored. The goals for Osinski and his team are to first confirm the impact nature of this site and then investigate the geology of the area, including insights that this unique site may have into crater formation.

The research team will utilize Canadian-built Radarsat-2 imagery to aid in the selection of a landing site for the Twin Otter aircraft and to identify potential sites of scientific interest. In addition to the standard tools of a geologist, such as a hammer and compass, Osinski, Capt. Hansen and the others will also use modern technologies including a LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), which is provided by Toronto-based Optech Inc. and a 3D stereo camera imaging system, which was designed and developed by MDA Space Missions of Brampton, Ont.

This 3D perspective color image is a Digital Elevation Model of the as of yet unconfirmed meteorite impact crater (estimated 20-km diameter) discovered on the Northern part of Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. The image shows a quasi-circular structure with remnants of arcuate topographic scarps in the eastern and southeastern parts of the structure that may be eroded remnants of the crater’s terraced rim. A ring of hills near the center of the structure (yellows) may be the remains of a central uplift feature, which is an expected topographic feature in craters larger than 2-4 km in diameter on Earth. Note that the purple represents sea level while blue represents some of the lowest elevation terrain. The image is vertically exaggerated by 10x to enhance the topographic signature of the proposed impact structure. (Image credits: the image was processed by Dr. Livio Tornabene at Centre for Earth and Planetary Science and Exploration, Western University. The data is from the Canadian Digital Elevation Data(set) and was generated by the Government of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Earth Sciences Sector, Mapping Information Branch, Centre for Topographic Information – Sherbrooke and was distributed by GeoBase.)

Victoria Island News

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Victoria Island team interview in the London Free Press
Wed Aug 08, 2012
Bet you can't guess what happened next...
Because we were all a bit worried about the fog on Monday night, the call was made to PCSP to request that they send a Twin Otter to get us on Wednesday (one day earlier than we were planning). Tuesday was pretty cold and miserable, and we didn’t have much hope that a Twin be able to get in... (read full story)
Thu Jul 12, 2012
And then there was fog... (blog post)
It was a beautiful clear morning when we set out today. A wee bit chilly, but believe it or not this made for a lovely change from the heat, and more importantly from the mosquitoes! (read full story)
Tue Jul 10, 2012
A long day's drive... (blog post)
Amazing vistas, 55 km of driving, two major river crossings, caribou, arctic fox, sandy beaches, rocky hilltops – just a small selection of the highlights from another long day’s drive! (read full story)
Mon Jul 09, 2012
The Team (blog post)
It’s a about time to properly introduce the team here, so here’s a bit about ourselves... (read full story)
Mon Jul 09, 2012