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"Using Gravity to Probe the Martian Sedimentary Rock Record"

Thursday, March 28, 2019 at 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Space Sciences Building, 105

Mars is the only planet aside from the Earth that is known to host abundant sedimentary rocks.  These rocks document the climate history of the planet by through the action of wind, water, and other processes which have sculpted the surface of Mars.  Unlike the Earth, where the earliest rock record has largely been lost via plate tectonics, the sedimentary rocks of Mars primarily record the first billion years of solar system evolution.  Further, the capacity of sedimentary rocks to preserve organic matter presents an attractive target for understanding whether habitable conditions existed in the planet's past.  Imaging and spectroscopic data have greatly improved our understanding of both the extent and the geologic origin of these rocks over the past two decades, but have limited ability to probe beyond the surface.  Geophysical methods such as gravimetry, the precise measurement of gravitational fields, are commonly used on Earth to probe subsurface geologic structures.  This talk will describe the results of two recent studies from both orbital and landed missions to use gravimetry to understand the Martian sedimentary record for the first time.  These data provide new insight into the depositional history of these rocks, and show the promise of gravity measurements in future exploration of the Martian surface. 

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Monica Carpenter

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Kevin Lewis

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Johns Hopkins University

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