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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.

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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!

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20 December 2009

AGU 2009 – Day 3: Venus and the Moon

I’m splitting day 3 into two posts because there were so many interesting sessions. Stay tuned for the second post about astrobiology and society. But for now, Venus and the moon! I started the day off at the Venus session. One of the first talks I heard was by Cedric Gillman about the history of water on Venus. He suggested a very thick primordial H2O atmosphere with a surface pressure …

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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 …

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27 September 2009

A Detailed Look at Water on the Moon

It looks like Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has beat me to the punch! After the big announcement that three separate groups have found evidence of water on the moon, she dove in, read the papers and has a series of posts with all of the details of their findings. Well worth a read! Part 1: There’s Water on the Moon! Part 2: The Murkier Part of the …

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24 September 2009

Water on the Moon

In case you haven’t heard yet, there is quite the buzz building about three separate results that indicate that there is water on the lunar surface. There isn’t much: moon rocks returned by Apollo are pretty darn dry, but it’s still an exciting result, and it means that future missions might be able to extract water for drinking and rocket fuel. I was especially surprised to hear that the water …

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22 March 2009

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

(This is the final day of a week-long field trip in Arizona. Get caught up with days 1,2,3,4,5, 6) Friday was the last day of the field trip, and we spent it at the Petrified Forest national park. We were there to study the colorful clays and river deposits, but we began the day with an unexpected bonus: our guide, Bill Parker, is a paleontologist at the park, and he …

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16 September 2008

Potential MSL Site: Nili Fossae Trough

This morning we hit the ground running and heard about a very interesting site: the Nili Fossae Trough. This site would land in a big canyon formed when a block of crust dropped down. To the southeast of the site is the giant Isidis impact basin, and to the south is the Syrtis Major volcano and associated lava flows. Just east of the trough is a somewhat fresher crater whose …

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17 July 2008

New insights into ancient water on Mars

The evidence for a warmer, wetter ancient Mars just keeps piling up! In 2 new papers, the team for the CRISM spectrometer onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has reported new evidence for water on the surface of ancient Mars, based on the ubiquitous presence of water-bearing minerals. Universe Today has a great post up on the findings, so I won’t repeat too much of Nancy’s explanation. In brief, the CRISM

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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 …

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