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6 March 2010

LPSC 2010 – Day 4: Mars Oceans, Titan Lakes, Astrobiology and Asteroids

Thursday started off with a couple of talks about the possibility of oceans on Mars. The first one, given by Gaetano DiAchille looked at possible locations of deltas all over Mars to try to figure out the water level of a past ocean. Deltas form when a river hits a standing body of water and drops its sediment, so they are a reliable marker of the water level. DiAchille found …


5 March 2010

LPSC 2010 – Day 3: Rover Update, Mafic Mars and Atmospheres

Wednesday started off with a summary of results from the Opportunity rover, given by Steve Squyres. He started off talking about the several iron meteorites discovered in the past year. I thought it was particularly interesting that there are hematite blueberries on top of some of the meteorites: the blueberries are way too big to be lifted by the wind, so that means the meteorite must have been buried and …


3 March 2010

LPSC 2010 – Day 2

Well, I made it to Houston about a day later than expected so I missed all of the monday talks and sessions, but I took notes yesterday and I’ll share some highlights here. The day started off with a series of talks about terrestial planet cryospheres. In other words, ice on Mars and the earth. Robert Grimm gave the first talk, describing his latest model results for groundwater and ice …


28 March 2009

LPSC: The Masursky Lecture

Every year at LPSC one of the big events is the Masursky lecture, given by that year’s winner of the Masursky prize recognizing “individuals who have rendered outstanding service to planetary science and exploration through engineering, managerial, programmatic, or public service activities”. This year’s winner was Alan Stern, and he gave a thought-provoking talk about everyone’s favorite subject: What is a Planet? The official title was “Planet Categorization and Planetary …


LPSC 2009: Day 2

Day 2 was all about ice in the mars sessions: the morning focused on  the polar caps and the afternoon focused on the subsurface. I also managed to catch a few non-mars talks. One of the first talks I saw was by Ken Tanaka, famed for his geologic maps of Mars. He showed the results of his studies of the north polar cap, and identified at least two major hiatuses. …


26 March 2009


Just a word to say that I do plan on blogging LPSC, but (clearly) I’m not going to be able to keep up with daily posts. I’m still taking notes, and I’ll post them when I have some more time. Part of the problem is that I’m staying at the conference hotel, which is nice enough that you have to pay to use their internet, and the conference internet is …


24 March 2009

LPSC 2009: Day 1

Unfortunately I missed the earliest sessions today because I had to drive down to Johnson Space Center to get a badge. I am going to be working there for four weeks after LPSC and another five weeks later in the summer, characterizing rock samples and shooting them with a laser, so I needed a badge to be able to do that work. I got back to the conference just in …


22 March 2009

Blogging LPSC 2009

Greetings from Texas! With the Arizona field trip over, today I hopped on a plane to Houston for the 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. It will be going on all this week, starting on Monday and I will do my best to post my more interesting notes here. LPSC is a great conference, with the latest news from all aspects of planetary science, and a special focus on more …


20 March 2008

Mining Phobos and Deimos

Visiting the moon is one thing. It’s a difficult, complicated, dangerous, and exciting thing. But it’s also a thing that we have done before. Sending people to Mars is a whole new ballgame. Instead of a few days of travel, future Mars astronauts will likely be looking at a six month trip there, and at least as long to get back, with an extended stay on Mars in the middle. …


18 March 2008

Fire and Ice: Tidally Locked Exoplanets

What would the climate be like if the earth was closer to the sun than Mercury, and was tidally locked, so that the same side of the planet always faced the sun? This was the question that Anita Ganesan and colleagues set out to answer with their poster last Thursday night at LPSC. I didn’t get the chance to talk to them directly, but I read their poster and abstract …


15 March 2008

Mars is gorges? Gullies @ LPSC

A half session at LPSC was devoted to observations and analog work on Martian gullies. These apparently young, water carved features are one of the many big puzzles on Mars today. Credit: NASA / JPL/ U. Ariz. Gullies, like the one shown above, were discovered on Mars back in 2000 in images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera, the first high-res camera in orbit around the red planet. They were …


What does Mars Taste Like?

Salt and vinegar potato chips. Ok, not really: there are no potatoes on Mars. On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that Mars is and was a salty and acidic place. The salts are not generally table salt, and the acid was likely sulfuric rather than acetic, but you get the idea. There were several talks today about experimenting with brines (salty solutions) to see if they could explain …


13 March 2008

Why is Mars Lopsided?

Take a look at this topographic map of Mars. The first thing that most people notice is that the northern hemisphere is mostly lower elevation (blue), and the southern hemisphere is mostly higher elevation (red). Nobody knows why. This “dichotomy” is one of the biggest questions in Mars science, and there were several talks yesterday afternoon trying to explain it. There are two main types of theory to explain the …


12 March 2008

A Little Career Advice from Mike Griffin

If you haven’t heard, the NASA Mars Exploration Program budget is in a bit of a tight spot. The budget for the next 12 years was already going to be tricky, with the cost overruns of MSL, the delay of the 2011 Scout mission, and plans for the uber expensive 6-missions-in-1 Mars Sample Return. Now, because NASA is moving money to Outer Planets to fly a new flagship mission, the …


Martian Greenhouse: Volcanic CO2 Doesn't Cut It

With all the evidence for water on the surface of Mars in the distant past, we always return to the same question: how was it possible for water to be stable back then? These days any liquid water on the surface would boil due to the low pressure or freeze due to the low temperature (or maybe do both at the same time!). To explain liquid water on the past, …


Impacts, Occam's Razor, and Layers

The final Mars talk that I saw yesterday came at the end of a session rich with discussion of geochemistry, aqueous alteration, hydrothermal systems, and reference to the ubiquitous layers seen by both Mars rovers as being emplaced, or at least altered, by water. So I was interested to hear that the final presenter, Don Burt, has an alternative hypothesis. Burt suggested that since layers are so ubiquitious, and that …


Spiders on Mars?!

Yes, it’s true –there are multi-legged, creepy-crawly looking things on Mars. The HiRISE camera has taken pictures of a slew of these things. But don’t worry, arachnophobs – they won’t bite or lay eggs under your skin at night. They’ll just spit.   The “spiders” are actually systems of channels near the south pole of Mars, as Dr. Candy Hansen explained during one of this morning’s LPSC sessions. These channels …


Networking the Moon

This afternoon I was listening to Mars talks about geochemistry, but I reached saturation. I had to go hear about somewhere else in the solar system. So, I wandered in a stupor over to the session on lunar exploration. It turns out I had good timing: I got there just in time to hear none other than Alan Stern, associate administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate, give a talk about …


11 March 2008

Layers and Swiss Cheese

No, this isn’t a post about sandwiches. There just happen to be layers and swiss cheese (terrain) in the ice caps on Mars. The morning session that I attended today was all about the north and south polar ice caps, and what people are seeing there, especially with new high-resolution data. The poles of Mars are really interesting because every winter the atmosphere condenses out to form layers of carbon …


9 March 2008

Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXIX

We are heading down to Texas today for the 39th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC)! This conference is one of the biggest annual gatherings of planetary scientists, and there are sure to be lots of interesting results. We will do our best to cover the highlights while we’re there and post about them here. If you’re interested, you can browse the abstracts at this link. Stay tuned for loads …