inline imageOn behalf of the 2012 Pellas-Ryder Award Committee, it is my pleasure to announce that D. Alex Patthoff, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Idaho, is the 2012 winner of the Pellas-Ryder Award. Mr. Patthoff’s paper, “A fracture history on Enceladus provides evidence for a global ocean” (Geophysical Research Letters 38, L18201, doi: 10.1029/2011GL048387, 2011), was judged to be the best of the three papers submitted for the competition this year.

In Patthoff and Kattenhorn (2011), Mr. Patthoff studied the region around the south pole of Saturn’s moon Enceladus as imaged by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. He recognized that the young, pervasively fractured surface that is the source of Enceladus’ water vapor plumes and heat sources has fracture patterns that are inconsistent with contemporary stress fields, but instead probably formed in a temporally varying global stress field that is related to nonsynchronous rotation of a floating ice shell above a global liquid ocean. This finding increases to at least three the number of outer planet satellites likely to possess a subsurface liquid water layer, and increases our understanding of the potential for gas giant planets to produce moons with potential habitats for extraterrestrial life. Many of the moons of our outer solar system are geologically active worlds that warrant as much scientific study as Mars or the Moon.

Some of the judges’ comments that were provided on Patthoff’s paper include: “It was a fantastic study and a well-written paper.”“I could really relate to the study and tell what an excellent job he had done.”“I thought the figures were just right and totally sufficient toward expressing the point of the paper.”

The Pellas-Ryder Award for Best Student Paper in Planetary Sciences is jointly sponsored by the Meteoritical Society and the Planetary Geology Division of the Geological Society of America (GSA), and is awarded to an undergraduate or graduate student who is first author of the best planetary science paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal during the year prior to the award. Any first author of a paper published on a topic listed on the cover of Meteoritics & Planetary Science who was a student when the paper was submitted is eligible for consideration for this award. The award has been given since 2001, and honors the memories of meteoriticist Paul Pellas and lunar scientist Graham Ryder.

Mr. Patthoff will receive a $500 award check from the Meteoritical Society and an award plaque from the GSA Planetary Geology Division. Mr. Patthoff will be recognized at the 2012 GSA Annual Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the 2013 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. The award committee extends its sincere congratulation to Mr. Patthoff on his paper and award.