Dr. Sebastiaan de Vet

Dr. Sebastiaan de Vet

As a planetary geomorphologist I am fascinated by rocks and landscapes, both on Earth and other planetary bodies in the Solar System. I studied the interdisciplinary Bèta-Gamma Bachelor and did my MSc in Earth Sciences (cum laude), both in Amsterdam. In 2013 I defended my PhD, for which I studied the environmental fate of materials formed by volcanic eruptions under ice sheets and explored the parallels between Iceland and Mars. I have flown on various parabolic flights, participated in hypergravity research and was involved in the two mission of our Dutch astronaut to the International Space Station. In 2017 I became an honorary research associate at Naturalis to study meteorites. In April 2020 I joined the Astrodynamics & Space Missions section as lecturer. I currently lead initiatives such as the Delft Meteorite Lab and I am setting up the Planetary Flight Office for drone-assisted studies of planetary analogues. Read more at my personal website.

In keywords: planetary geoscience, geomorphology, aeolian processes, glaciovolcanism, meteoritics.

Research: The surface of a planet or planetary body tells a story of how it was formed. Landscapes and their materials allow us to study planetary evolution on the scale of billions of years. How did various processes affect a planetary surface and caused it to retain clues to a planet’s geologic, climatic, and possibly biologic past? How can we quantify planetary surface processes and materials and what do they tell us specifically about the steps in which planets (or moons) evolved? I am especially interested in landforms and landscape processes that can offer insights into (palaeo)environmental interactions. My interest goes to glaciovolcanism (interaction of volcanoes with ice during glaciations) and the geomorphology of resulting glaciovolcanic landforms, and I explore the parallels between those in Iceland and on Mars. In this framework I am developing the Planetary Flight Office, for drone-assisted studies of planetary analogues. Within aeolian geomorphology I am interested in the interaction between the atmosphere with surface materials to understand how grain-scale interactions and process dynamics are affected in a low-pressure atmosphere (either high-alpine or on Mars). In addition to these topics in planetary geomorphology, I also study meteorites. Meteorites are the palpable fragments of the planetary building blocks and they shed light on the earliest times of planetary evolution. The current challenge is to recover freshly fallen meteorites (as part of pro-am collaborations wilt various national and international stakeholders) to increase access to these unique study samples. My focusses is on their aerodynamic, bulk-rock and spectroscopic properties, often in relation to asteroids that exist in the solar system today.

Overall, my work in planetary geomorphology and meteoritics involves a diverse portfolio of methods and techniques, that includes laboratory experiments, fieldwork, photogrammetry and modelling, and aims to tie together compositional properties, morphometrics and process dynamics.

Projects: KNAW outreach grant from the pilot fund ‘Science communication by scientists: Appreciated!’. Europlanet 2021 RI Transnational Access grants to support Mars analogue fieldwork in Iceland (rootless cones near Mývatn) and for wind tunnel experiments using the Planetary Environment Facilities at Aarhus University (Denmark). These projects receive funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

Above: illustration of some research foci and possible MSc research topics related to meteoritics, aeolian experiments and planetary geomorphology.

Education: In the BSc programme Aerospace Engineering I have contributed to the Design Synthesis Exercise (DSE) and I will be setting-up and coordinating the new minor course ‘Planetary Science & Exoplanets’. In our MSc programme I contribute to the courses Planetary Sciences I & II and others. I have set-up the Delft Meteorite Lab, is a virtual collection of 3-D models of meteorites, impact rocks and other objects created for online teaching in planetary science courses at the Aerospace Engineering faculty of TU Delft. It is the first collection of its kind in the Netherlands. The MSc thesis topics that I offer and support can cover both planetary geoscience and meteoritics. Currently, my MSc students are working on diverse topics ranging from lithosphere unloading to understand subglacial volcanism on Mars, to aerodynamics of meteorites and the acoustics of dunes on Mars, as well as the morphometrics of meteorite regmaglypts (BSc honours project).

For possible thesis topics please have a look at the Brightspace page of the MSc AE profile Space Exploration.