M. Darby Dyar
Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Astronomy
Minerals; minerals and health; Mössbauer spectroscopy; Mars; Moon; planetary science; optical spectroscopy; synchrotron spectroscopy; FTIR spectroscopy; metamorphic geology; water in minerals
The primary goal of Darby Dyar's research is to understand how hydrogen and oxygen are distributed throughout our solar system, particularly in terrestrial bodies such as the Earth, the Moon, Mars, and the parent bodies of meteorites. Dyar uses several different types of spectroscopy to study rocks that originated from 90- to 0-km depth in the Earth, as well as lunar rocks and Martian meteorite samples collected from Antarctica.
Dyar is a frequent contributor to scientific journals and has been awarded numerous grants from the American Chemical Society, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, among other institutions. She has ongoing funding from NASA's Mars Fundamental Research program to conduct research for the space agency's rovers. To date, five grants totaling $257,000 have supported Dyar's work, which is assisted by students, collecting Mössbauer data at temperatures mimicking those on the cold Martian surface (down to -208 F). Two other NASA grants totaling more than $760,000 are supporting calibration of a new type of laser used for chemical analyses. The ChemCam instrument is part of the Mars Science Laboratory, set to land in 2012; its calibration target was built at the College.
Dyar's other research focuses on the Earth’s Moon. She was appointed to the teams of two of the seven Lunar Science Institutes announced by NASA in 2009. She also receives funding from the National Science Foundation for work at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven, New York, and from NSF’s educational division, which is supporting her development work on effective ways to use animations in teaching.
- "Dyar Talks to Republican about Life on Moon," Springfield Republican, January 21, 2014
- "MHC's Dyar Talks to ABC 40 about NASA Work," Office of Communications, January 10, 2014
- "Darby Dyar Heads for Outer Space—Virtually," Office of Communications, December 30, 2013
- "Dyar Talks to Globe About Life on Mars," Boston Globe, December 9, 2013
- "Darby Dyar," People Profile, Solar System Exploration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, February 13, 2013
- "Curious About Life: Interview with Darby Dyar," Astrobiology Magazine, December 13, 2012
- "Dyar on Academic Minute and NEPR," WAMC The Academic Minute, August 20, 2012
- "MHC's Darby Dyar Plays Key Role in Mars Curiosity Mission," Office of Communications, August 6, 2012
- "Darby Dyar on being a good scientific citizen and managing work time," Women in Planetary Science, October 29, 2010
- "MHC's Dyar on Academic Minute," WAMC The Academic Minute, October 12, 2010
- "New idea surfaces on origin of moon’s water," Space.com, October 6, 2009
- "MHC's Dyar Receives Grant from NASA," Office of Communications, September 14, 2009
- "Moonstruck: How the 'Giant Leap for Mankind' 40 Years Ago Inspired a Mount Holyoke Astronomer," Office of Communications, July 16, 2009
- "MHC's Dyar Rocks the Web," Office of Communications, April 9, 2009
- "MHC's Cool New Course," Office of Communications, August 9, 2007
- "Profesor Dyar Gains NASA Grants," Office of Communications, April 12, 2006
- "An Out-of-this-World Interview with Darby Dyar," College Street Journal, December 13, 2002
- "It Came from Mars! Geologist Darby Dyar Analyzes Martian Meteorite Fragments for Clues about the Red Planet," College Street Journal, October 30, 1998