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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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20 March 2009

Grand Falls and Sand Dunes

(This is day 6 of a week-long field trip in Arizona. Get caught up with days 1,2,3,4,5) Today we visited Grand Falls and the nearby dune field. Grand Falls is especially interesting because it combines many of the processes that are active in shaping planetary surfaces. The falls are the result of a huge lava flow pouring into the ancient canyon of the Little Colorado river, filling the canyon and …


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19 March 2009

Meteor Crater, Walnut Canyon, and Red Mountain

(This is day 5 of a week-long planetary geology field trip to Arizona. Get caught up with days 1,2,3,4) Today was a long and awesome day. We started out at meteor crater, the youngest and best preserved impact crater on Earth! Our guide today was Shaun Wright, a colleague from the Hawaii field workshop, among other places. He showed us infrared images of the crater taken from an airplane and …


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16 March 2009

SP Flow and Sunset Crater

(This is day 3 of a week-long field trip to Arizona. Catch up with days 1 and 2!) Today was all about volcanoes. We started early, driving north out of Flagstaff and skirting around the huge San Francisco peaks, which are the remnants of a huge stratovolcano (think Mt. Fuki or Mt. Rainier). The volcano formed between about 1 and 0.4 million years ago. It is currently 12,633 feet high, …


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2 March 2009

The MOC "Book": Volcanic Landforms

More about the MOC paper! This is part six of a series of posts looking at the huge 2001 paper summarizing the results from the Mars Orbital Camera (MOC): the first high-resolution camera in orbit around Mars. Check out the previous posts if you want to get caught up: 1,2,3,4,5 Today’s topic is volcanism, something I’ve written a lot about before on the blog. Mars is essentially a volcanic planet, …


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2 February 2009

New Google Mars

Google Earth’s latest edition was just released and guess what? It has a Mars setting! There was a way to overlay Mars data on the Earth globe in previous versions, but now that’s no longer necessary: just click a button and you’re on Mars. You can choose from a variety of global maps including topography, Viking images, Day and nighttime infrared, and visible color. It also has footprints for high …


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22 January 2009

Mars Methane: the Paper

After all the to-do about the confirmation of methane on Mars and its possible implications, I decided that I should take a look at the actual Science article and post a distillation of it here. The paper that caused this uproar is called “Strong Release of Methane on Mars in Northern Summer 2003”, by Mumma et al. Before this paper, methane had been detected on Mars, maybe. The evidence was …


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13 November 2008

Tectonics on Mars

Mars is often touted as the “most earth-like” planet, but if you take a look at its surface there are some aspects that are decidedly alien. Sure, there are dry river beds and canyons and volcanoes. But there are also craters. Everywhere. So many that, when Mariner 9 sent back the first spacecraft images of Mars, people were dismayed to see a surface that looked just like the moon! Is …


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16 October 2008

DPS 2008 Day Five: Icy and Not-so-Icy Moons

Today was the final day of the DPS meeting here at Cornell, but the sessions were still very interesting. They served to remind me just how little we know about the outer solar system. Also, remember you can go and watch all the sessions yourself! I believe the plan is to transfer all the videos to a more permanent location soon, so I will keep you posted. The first few …


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14 October 2008

DPS 2008 Day Three: More Titan, More Exoplanets

This morning I spent my time in the Titan Subsurface and Interior sessions, and I’m glad I did because there were some cool talks. There were a couple that showed possible evidence for cryovolcanism (that is, “volcanoes” where the “lava” is actually water freezing to become ice). One talk by Rosaly Lopes showed radar images of locations called Hotei Arcus and Western Xanadu, and suggested that the lobate features that …


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