Astrogeology Science Center

Research

The USGS performs research that includes studies on geology, volcanism, astrobiology, dunes, ice and water flow, crater aging, mineral deposits and the make-up of various planetary surfaces. The team's primary focus is explaining geological and geophysical processes on the rocky planets and satellites. Such research leads to a better understanding of the character of our neighboring planets, the origins of the solar system, and a better comprehension of our own planet, Earth.

Filter Total Items: 14
Date published: November 14, 2018
Status: Completed

Mars Ice

The Mars-Ice project is a joint project between the USGS Astrogeology Research Program (Flagstaff, AZ) and the Arizona State University Mars Space Flight Facilty (Tempe, AZ) to bring together a single resource for the exploration of martian ices. Much of this research is done at the USGS Flagstaff Science Center.

Date published: November 9, 2018
Status: Completed

Mars Dunes

Sand dunes are among the most widespread aeolian features present on Mars, serving as unique indicators of the interaction between the atmosphere and surface. On a planetary body, dunes accumulate where a supply of sand-sized grains exists or may be abraded, is carried downwind by winds of saltation strength, and is subsequently deposited where these winds weaken below the...

Date published: October 24, 2018
Status: Active

MER MI Products

A single MI image or an Microscopic Imager mosaic can be merged with Pancam color images. The two products must be coregistered first, and then added together to produce colorized images in which the intensity comes from the MI and color (hue/saturation) comes from the Pancam images. This method of colorizing data may not yield a satisfactory product if the solar illumination...

Date published: October 24, 2018
Status: Active

Evidence of Cryovolcanism on Titan

The Cassini RADAR team led by USGS scientist, Randolph Kirk, has discovered the "best candidate yet" for an ice volcano on Saturn's moon Titan. The 3D view reveals multiple mountain peaks, deep pits and finger-like flows at Sotra Facula. Some of the terrain resembles volcanic cones, craters and flows on Earth but made of Titan materials (ice and/or carbon compounds) not molten...

Date published: October 24, 2018
Status: Active

Cassini Observations of Io's Visible Aurorae

As the Cassini spacecraft passed through the Jovian system on its way to Saturn, it captured more than 500 images of Jupiter's moon Io in eclipse. Cassini's near-ultraviolet filters detected the moon's bright equatorial glows, supporting the interpretation that the visible emissions are predominantly due to molecular sulfer dioxide (SO2).

Date published: October 24, 2018
Status: Active

Laboratory Infrared Spectroscopy of Mars Analog Materials

Former USGS scientist, Jeff Johnson, performed key research on the detection of dust on the Martian surface. This work explored the laboratory thermal infrared and visible/near-infrared spectroscopy of palagonitic dust coatings on rock substrates and experimentally shocked feldspars and pyroxenes.

Date published: October 22, 2018
Status: Active

Three Decades of Martian Surface Changes

The surface of Mars has changed dramatically during the three decades spanned by spacecraft exploration. Comparisons of Mars Global Surveyor images with Viking and Mariner 9 pictures suggest that more than one third of Mars' surface area has brightened or darkened by at least 10%. 

Date published: October 22, 2018
Status: Active

Valles Marineris - The Grand Canyon of Mars

The Valles Marineris is a system of canyons located just south of the Martian equator. The system is about 4000 km long, and, if on earth, would extend all the way across the United States. The central individual troughs, generally 50 to 100 km wide, merge into a depression as much as 600 km wide. In places the canyon floor reaches a depth of 10 km, 6 to 7 times deeper than...

Date published: October 22, 2018
Status: Active

Sub-ice Volcanism on Earth and Mars

Sub-glacially erupted volcanoes form free-standing flat-topped mesas, known as tuyas. Although there are some silicic edifices (e.g. Tuffen et al., 2002), most terrestrial sub-ice volcanoes are mafic and consist of horizontal layered basaltic lavas overlying friable flank deposits of steeply-dipping (angled) hyaloclastite breccias composed of variably-altered fine-grained...

Date published: October 22, 2018
Status: Active

Venus Magellan Impact Crater Database

The NASA Magellan spacecraft provided synthetic aperture radar (SAR) image coverage of 98% of the surface of the planet Venus, in addition to topography and several types of physical property data on the venusian surface (e.g., radar reflectivity, radar backscatter, emissivity, and rms slopes).(See Special Magellan Issue of J. Geophys. Res., v. 97, nos. E8 and E10, August 25...

Date published: October 22, 2018
Status: Active

Mars MER Microscopic Imager Surface Findings

The Microscopic Imagers (MI) on the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have returned images of Mars with higher resolution than any previous camera system, allowing detailed petrographic and sedimentological studies of the rocks and soils. Designed to simulate a geologist’s hand lens, the MI cameras were mounted on the rovers’ instrument arms. They can resolve...

Date published: October 19, 2018
Status: Archived

Moon Pyroclastic Volcanism Project

The products of explosive or pyroclastic volcanic eruptions on the Moon have intrigued lunar scientists for years. These deposits, nearly 100 in number and spread widely across the lunar surface, are generally dark and smooth-surfaced. Although pyroclastic materials were found in all lunar samples and thus they are known to be widely dispersed from their sources, the dark...