Elena Romashkova receives Dwornik Award for best undergraduate oral presentation

Elena Romashkova smiles with an honorable mention certificate for best haiku at the 53rd annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Image courtesy the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Recent EAPS graduate Elena Romashkova received the Stephen E. Dwornik Planetary Geoscience Best Undergraduate Oral Presentation Award at the 53rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). The Dwornik Awards recognize the best undergraduate and graduate oral and poster presentations given at the conference, which took place as a hybrid event in March in Texas.

Romashkova’s presentation, “Analysis of transient fog features on Titan”, examined low hanging clouds near the surface of Titan. Titan, a moon of Saturn, is the only known solar system object other than Earth to have an active hydrological cycle, where methane and other constituents play a similar role to water on Earth. Using data collected from the Cassini Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS), Romashkova investigated factors that may influence formation of fogs, or more accurately low-altitude clouds, as it is impossible to distinguish between the two with current data.

Romashkova found that fog formation was primarily observed at high latitudes, and mostly in the northern hemisphere, where there are many methane lakes and higher levels of precipitation that may lead to conditions that encourage fog formation. In particular, several fogs were found to trace the shapes of lakes they appear over. Seasonality also played a role—most fogs were observed only in the spring and summer of each hemisphere.

In addition to winning best oral presentation, Romashkova was also given an honorable mention for her entry in the conference’s haiku contest:

Fog, gently drifting
Across Titan’s hazy sky.
We contemplate why.

The Dwornik award was started in 1991 to encourage US students to become involved with NASA and planetary science. It is managed and judged by the Planetary Geology division of the Geological Society of America. Stephen E. Dwornik served as the Chief of Planetology and later the Chief of Planetary Geology during his time at NASA and has long supported programs and grants focused on planetary research.

The award comes with a cash prize and a plaque, and Romashkova will be honored at the 54th annual conference in 2023.