Planetary Science and Astrobiology

Research in this area has been a long-standing strength in the Department, and has included a diverse range of topics from the founding of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) Program to theoretical development of light-matter interaction to studies of planetary surfaces using remote sensing and geologic mapping. Our current planetary research is focused on remote sensing and spectral analysis of the moon and Mars using visible to thermal infrared data to study lava flow field development and petrology, sedimentology and impact cratering processes as well as the effects of space weathering.

Researchers are also investigating biogeochemical signals of life processes with a focus on investigations of extreme environments that are potential analogs for the early Earth. Understanding such chemical tracers on Earth may be useful for identification of astrobiological processes on other planets as well. Faculty are members of several NASA instrument science teams and employ tools such as image analysis and software development, spectroscopy and geochemical laboratory analyses, theoretical modeling, and terrestrial analog studies.