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29 April 2011

Gale Crater Videos

Yesterday I participated in a telecon about Gale Crater, one of the potential landing sites for MSL. It’s a fascinating place to talk about and would make for a spectacular mission. Ok, this is true for all four finalist landing sites, but the scenery at Gale, with its 5km tall mountain of layered rocks would be particularly great. One of the presenters at yesterday’s telecon, Dawn Sumner, posted two very nice videos on YouTube covering much of what she talked about. The videos also serve to show off a very-cool new open-source 3D visualization and GIS tool called Crusta being developed by a student at UC Davis.


4 April 2011

The Science of Red Mars

Have you read the book Red Mars yet? If not, you can download a pdf of it here. It’s a classic hard sci-fi epic about the colonization of Mars, and for my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, I took a look at how the highly accurate depiction of Mars in the book has held up with all the new discoveries in the last 20 years. Head on over and check it out!


19 March 2011

LPSC 2011: Day 2 – Cryospheres, Carbon, and Methane Skepticism

More on the cryosphere of Mars, along with some speculation about martian carbonates and skepticism about the presence of methane in the martian atmosphere.


16 March 2011

LPSC 2011 – Day 1: Cryospheres and Making Moons

Greetings from Texas, loyal readers! As you may have noticed, this year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference came and went with barely a peep here on the blog. This is because, unlike some members of the planetary science community, I do need to sleep occasionally, and I spent almost all of my time at LPSC either in sessions or working on my never-ending paper. Yeah, remember the one that I …


12 January 2011

Teacher Webinar: Rovers and Career Advice

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give my first ever “webinar” to a group of teachers and some of their students, and thanks to the miracle of the internet, the whole thing is recorded so you can watch it too! Shoshe Cole, another Mars graduate student here at Cornell gave the first presentation, focusing mostly on general Mars background info and the current Mars Exploration Rovers. My presentation starts at just shy of 1 hour into the recording, and I talked about Mars Science Laboratory and my involvement in the mission through ChemCam work and landing site selection.

We also both included some career advice for the teachers to pass onto their students, so if you or someone you know are interested in a career in planetary science (or science more generally), you might want to take a look!


3 January 2011

AGU 2010 – Days 3 and 4: Exoplanets, Impact Basins and Alteration

Now that it’s a New Year, it’s time I wrapped up my AGU 2010 recaps. This post covers Wednesday and Thursday, with lots of good stuff about super-earth exoplanets, impacts on the Moon and Mars, and lasers on Venus!


16 September 2010

Gale Crater Geomorphology Paper – Published!

Big news folks! The huge paper that I’ve been working on for the last couple years is finally, unbelievably, published! Even better for you, it is published at the Mars journal, which is an open-access journal. Just head on over and you can download all 53 pages of pure, distilled Science! In case you don’t want to wade through that many pages (and almost as many figures) of Mars geomorphology …


3 August 2010

Is Eberswalde Really a Smoking Gun?

The other day in Mars journal club, we took a look at a paper about the “fan” in Eberswalde crater. You may recognize this name: it is one of the four finalist landing sites for MSL. The site was chosen because at the western end of the crater, there is a feature that most Mars scientists consider to be a delta, formed when sediment transported by rivers  encountered standing water …


19 July 2010

New Evidence for an Ocean on Mars?

There’s a new Nature Geoscience paper that has made a big splash in the Mars community, reviving interest in the possibility of a northern ocean. This news was making the rounds a couple weeks ago, but I decided to hold off because at last week’s Mars Journal Club we discussed the paper. The idea behind the paper is deceptively simple. The authors, Gaetano DiAchille and Brian Hynek, searched all over …


9 June 2010

Ice Caves on Mars!

Hey, guess what? There might be caves with ice in them on Mars! You should go check out my post about this cool new possibility over at Universe Today!


4 June 2010

Spirit Rover Discovers Carbonates

Big news from Mars today, Spirit has found evidence for significant amounts of carbonates in the rocks of Gusev crater! Carbonates are really important for two reasons: first of all, Mars has a very thin CO2 atmosphere right now. Too thin for water to remain as a liquid on the surface: it would just boil away and freeze at the same time! But there is lots of evidence that water …


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 …


25 March 2010

TED Talk: Why we need to go back to Mars

I recently started subscribing to the TED talk RSS feed, and I really love coming home every day after work and listening to smart people talk about cool ideas. If you aren’t familiar with TED, you should be. Most of the talks are fantastic and very thought-provoking. So you can imagine I was excited when I saw that today’s talk was about Mars! The talk was given by Joel Levine, …


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 …


5 January 2010

Putative "recent" lakes on Mars

I have a new article up at Universe Today about the discovery of possible lakes on Mars as recently as 3 billion years ago. I’m skeptical of the conclusion because there are a lot of uncertainties in crater age-dating on Mars, and the whole argument hangs on the discovery of small channels between pits that are supposedly due to flowing water, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Stay tuned, I have more …


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 …


17 November 2009

Be a Martian!

Fact #1: As a Mars scientist, I am incredibly spoiled. There are so many missions to Mars right now sending back so much data, that even if they all went silent tomorrow, it would be decades before we managed to look at all the data and figure out what it’s telling us. Fact #2: There are lots of people out there (I’m looking at you, loyal readers!) who would love …


14 July 2009

Book Review: Red Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Red Mars” is, in the words of Arthur C. Clarke, “The best novel on the colonization of Mars that has ever been written… It should be required reading for the colonists of the next century.” I read it back in 2002 during the summer between high-school and college, and then promptly went back to the library to check out “Green Mars” and “Blue Mars”, the two other …


6 July 2009

Student Questions about Mars Exploration

A few months ago, a class of 6th graders at JFK Middle School in Hudson, MA contacted the astronomy department at Cornell. They were doing an egg-drop project, modeled after the Mars rovers, and their teacher had them each write questions to Steve Squyres about the rover mission. Steve was out of town (and is always extremely busy), but he suggested that many of the questions could be answered by …


28 March 2009

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. …