NASA Grant Awarded to MNU Professor

Apr. 14, 2014 - by Carol Best

Grant to Study Terrestrial Impact of Nearby Supernovae

By Carol Best
April 14, 2014
Supernova Icon

Physics professor Andrew Overholt, PhD, learned last week that he and two colleagues will receive a $500,000 NASA Exobiology grant over three years to study the “Terrestrial Impact of Nearby Supernovae.” MNU’s portion of the grant is $150,000 which will be used to support the research, obtain additional computing equipment and fund a student research assistant.

“This is the kind of research we encourage our students to seek out over the summer at other research facilities,” Overholt says. “It is exciting to get to have it here at MNU for a top science student.”

Overholt conducts research with University of Kansas Professor Adrian Melott, PhD, and Brian Thomas, PhD, of Washburn University in a group they have named the KU Astrophysics Biology Working Group. The new research is in a relatively “untouched area” according to Overholt.Overholt-AndrewDr. Overholt

“No one has studied all of the effects there would be on Earth of a nearby supernova,” he says. “Nearby in this instance would be about 10 parsecs or 30 light years.”

A supernova occurs when large stars run out of fuel and collapse, this collapse then leads to a large explosion. Overholt says this happens very frequently because there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy. But statistically they do not happen very close to Earth. A recent study shows that Earth has experienced a nearby supernova in the distant past.

Evidence of “supernova dust” was found in a mud core sample at the bottom of the ocean. Overholt says that a rare iron isotope found in this dust and eaten by bacteria was found in bacteria skeletons which were trapped in the sea floor. Scans of the mud core found the iron deposits proving the supernova dust was there.

Cosmic Rays

Overholt and his colleagues will each study separate aspects of supernova effects. Thomas will focus on atmospheric effects such as ozone depletion. Overholt will study cosmic ray secondaries, high energy pieces of matter that can cause radiation sickness and cancer. Melott will conduct models of the rays from their source before they reach the Earth. All of this research is done through computer modeling requiring data analysis by supercomputers such as the National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid, a cyberinfrastructure of high-performance computers at 11 locations nationwide.  

The colleagues hope to learn how bad a worst case scenario would be, if a nearby supernova is survivable, how close it could be and still be survivable as well as effects on other planets with thinner atmospheres (like Mars).

“This is an unanswered question,” Overholt says. “We know these happen and statistically they should happen near us, but no one really knows what would happen on Earth if there was a nearby supernova.”

The three-year study will be published based on results after peer review.

 
 

MNU News

Wednesday, July 27
Recent News
List
Grid
Archives
IMG 8874
Nurtured Roots Grow Strong

Nurtured Roots Grow Strong

Pioneering freshmen come to MNU to pursue an education, anxious, brave and hopeful. Four particular students, never dreaming their paths would cross, came from near and far. Some paths seemed clear…

Read More
Kyle Ford
Pursuing God’s Call: Diving into Dentistry

Pursuing God’s Call: Diving into Dentistry

Would you ever think that a radio advertisement could lead someone to discovering their calling? That is exactly what led alum Kyle Ford (’13) to…

Read More
81427390F111
Second Career Choice Was Easy

Second Career Choice Was Easy

As a university, MNU is finally old enough to have alumni who are considering or have entered a second career. When Joe Ledbetter (’81) decided it was time recently to retire from a 25-year career…

Read More
Grittman Davis VBall
Coach Puts Communication Degree to Work

Coach Puts Communication Degree to Work

Though she played college volleyball, coaching a team wasn’t at the top of her list when Britney (Grittman ’14) Davis was deciding on a post-college career. However, after being admitted to the…

Read More
CY 3
Hard Work, Discipline and Confidence Pay Off

Hard Work, Discipline and Confidence Pay Off

“It’s funny how the game of football can make a difference in someone’s life,” says Corey Young ('14), an MNU sports management…

Read More
Mabee
Unique Partnership to Provide College Experience to Developmentally Disabled

Unique Partnership to Provide College Experience to Developmentally Disabled

Lakemary Center and MidAmerica Nazarene University are partnering to meet the needs of students diagnosed with certain developmental disabilities…

Read More
Brady Braatz
Braatz Named Chaplain

Braatz Named Chaplain

MNU President David Spittal announced the appointment today of Rev. Brady Braatz as MNU University Chaplain.  Braatz is a 2001 graduate of MNU with a bachelor’s degree in business…

Read More
300 Leaders Expected for PALCON

300 Leaders Expected for PALCON

MNU is one of three locations for the Church of the Nazarene’s Pastor and Leaders Conference (PALCON) this summer. The gathering for clergy “on the front lines of ministry” is an opportunity…

Read More
Relentless2016big
Summer SERVEteams

Summer SERVEteams

MNU SERVEteams are hitting the road this summer, traveling the MNU region to serve in churches, camps, District Assemblies and more. Together the groups will serve at 38 different events.The 19…

Read More
Sports
Jordan Eckley & Jason Jones Earn National Honors

Jordan Eckley & Jason Jones Earn National Honors

Two Pioneers were listed among the 2016 NAIA Baseball All-America selections, announced by the national office...(click title for more)

 
Lee Dobbins Named Head Softball Coach

Lee Dobbins Named Head Softball Coach

Director of Athletics Kevin Steele has announced Lee Dobbins as the next head softball coach at MNU...(click title for more)

 
Track & Field Speed & Power Camps

Track & Field Speed & Power Camps

The purpose of these camps is to give athletes from ALL SPORT BACKGOUNDS instruction on movements to develop speed and power within a track and field setting...(click title for more)

 
Latest Photos
MNU Commencement 2016 MidAmerica Nazarene University Undergraduate and School of Professional & Graduate Studies commencement ceremony 2016. Photos by Dan Videtich
MNU Commencement 2016 MidAmerica Nazarene University Undergraduate and School of Professional & Graduate Studies commencement ceremony 2016. Photos by Dan Videtich
MNU Commencement 2016 MidAmerica Nazarene University Undergraduate and School of Professional & Graduate Studies commencement ceremony 2016. Photos by Dan Videtich
MNU Commencement 2016 MidAmerica Nazarene University Undergraduate and School of Professional & Graduate Studies commencement ceremony 2016. Photos by Dan Videtich
MNU Commencement 2016 MidAmerica Nazarene University Undergraduate and School of Professional & Graduate Studies commencement ceremony 2016. Photos by Dan Videtich
MNU Commencement 2016 MidAmerica Nazarene University Undergraduate and School of Professional & Graduate Studies commencement ceremony 2016. Photos by Dan Videtich