PhD graduate shoots for the moon

Almost 50 years after the first seismometer was placed on the moon, Jesse Dimech is heading to NASA to take up a post-doctoral role to investigate moonquakes.

Jesse-Lee Dimech

“Earthquakes, or in this case, moonquakes, are really good tools for understanding the structure of a planet—using their energy, we can determine the composition and structure of the moon, and because of that we know that it is a lot like the Earth.

“The data set I will be working with has been processed several times already, but by applying new techniques we may be able to get new information. One of the techniques I will be using is shear wave splitting, which has been pioneered by Professor Martha Savage. She developed the program M-Fast that we’ve used to undertake the first extraterrestrial shear wave splitting study.”

Another technique Jesse will be using is a form of statistical analysis of earthquake faults developed by Associate Professor Richard Arnold, from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Associate Professor John Townend of the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences.

“I adapted this technique for my PhD to identify where mantle earthquakes were happening and what type of faults produced them. This gave us new information about how basins are formed and mountains are built. We’re using a modified version of this for the moon data.”

Jesse’s post-doctoral role at NASA is the culmination of a life-long ambition for Australian-born Jesse who has had a love of space since he was a child.

“I was actually pen pals with two astronauts—Andrew Thomas and John Glenn. We exchanged several letters, and I even talked to them on the phone once. They definitely inspired me. I was also the youngest member of an astronomy club. I’ve always been fascinated by NASA."