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26 April 2010

MarsSed 2010 Field trip – Day 1: Guadalupe Mountains and Evaporites

Hello everyone, I’m back from the MarsSed 2010 meeting in ElPaso! The meeting was great: it was small and focused on sedimentology and stratigraphy on Mars, with lots of room for discussion. Even better, there were plenty of terrestrial geologists attending, and their comments were extremely helpful for me, and probably many other Martians who lack a geology background. After two and a half days of presentations and discussion (and …


16 December 2009

AGU 2009 – Day 1

For those not familiar with the conference, the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union is a terrifyingly, overwhelmingly large conference. Each year, something like 16,000 geoscientists descend on San Francisco to share their work. It is also one of the major planetary science conferences, so a lot of new results are first presented here. This year, the first talks that I checked out on Monday were about radar observations …


21 October 2008

Massive Crystals: The coolest thing I've ever seen.

Really, that’s all I said for like 5 minutes after seeing this picture for the first time: Those are PEOPLE, for scale. Here’s another pic, just to put you in a little more awe: These are the largest crystals yet to be found on Earth, with some reaching over 30 feet in length! As reported in NG, The Cueva de los Cristales is located 1000 feet below ground in the …


17 September 2008

MSL Workshop Presentations!

For those of you playing along at home, I thought I should point out that most of the presentations so far are posted at the “marsoweb” landing site website, so I encourage you to go check them out. Also, in case you were wondering, I have no idea which sites I want to survive this process. I have one or two that I am skeptical of, but I am really …


16 September 2008

Potential MSL Site: South Meridiani

The south Meridiani landing site is a newcomer to the bunch. It was added earlier this summer as a replacement for the north meridiani site. The south Meridiani site is about 100 km due south of the Opportunity rover landing site and about 100 km due east of the Miyamoto site. What makes the south Meridiani site interesting is that, just south of the landing ellipse, you transition from Meridiani …


3rd MSL Landing Site Workshop – Engineering and Geobiology

We covered a LOT today, so I have decided to split things up. This post will cover the talks in the morning and then I will give each site its own post. Today started off with presentations from some of the engineers and managers on the mission. They updated us on the rover’s status (it it making lots of progress, but still has a long way to go!), and informed …


21 June 2008

The Great Canadian Adventure – Part 2: Gypsumville and Salt Springs

After our trip to the mine tailings, we headed to the remains of an ancient 40 km impact crater. The crater is totally invisible, but the rocks tell the story plain as day. Our first stop was just outside the town of Gypsumville. We drove through swampy, bumpy back roads into the middle of nowhere and stopped next to an unassuming patch of rock and gravel. At first it didn’t …


20 June 2008

The Great Canadian Adventure: Part 1 – The Price of Gold

After our trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park, where we compared dunes on Earth to those on Mars, we flew up north to Winnipeg, Canada. There we met up with a bunch of geologists and spent three days exploring a bunch of interesting sites in Manitoba. The first site was an old mine tailings dump from a gold mine in the area. When mining for gold, the rocks are …


15 March 2008

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 …


7 March 2008

How old is the Grand Canyon? The speleologist knows…

I learned a new word in Science this week: Speleology: the study or exploration of caves. Think “spelunking.” The word was in an article by UNM geologists Polyak et al. on a new age estimate of the Grand Canyon. For many years now, geologists have estimated the formation time of the Canyon at around 6 million years. The new study puts the age at close to 20 million. This may …


27 February 2008

Mapping Meridiani: Part 2

Last time, I gave some of the background information about my research. Now, armed with that knowledge, we can press forward and talk about what I do. I look for hydrated minerals. A hydrated mineral is a mineral with water trapped in its crystal structure. The crystal acts as a protective cage, keeping the water bound within it even when the atmospheric pressure is too low for liquid water to …