Planetary Science

Planetary Science

We are highly engaged in planetary science. We are applying theoretical, observational and experimental approaches to exoplanets in deep space, planets in this Solar System and exotic environments on this planet that are analog geological settings for other planets.

We explore other planets through remote sensing and spectroscopy. Spacecraft sent to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter or other objects return visible, infrared, and radar data revealing rich geological, geochemical and mineralogical information about planetary surfaces. We use infrared spectroscopy of Mars to characterize mineralogy of the ancient crust and interpret the habitability and astrobiology of the planet. Radar remote sensing of Venus is applied to understand if plate tectonics might have started on that planet and how it might have started on this one. Remote sensing and theoretical studies of magnetospheres and ionospheres of other planets are used to better understand how space weather operates.

To support these activities we have developed laboratory facilities focused on UV, visible and infrared spectroscopy. These equipment characterize samples from important planetary analog sites on Earth, such as the Qaidam Basin in western China – one of the most Mars-like places on Earth. By applying laboratory studies to rocks, minerals and soils from Qaidam and other important sites in Iceland, New Zealand, India and elsewhere, we can understand fundamental planetary geological processes, and better interpret data returned from spacecraft.

We now know that our solar system is one of many millions, if not billions of planetary systems in our galaxy alone. LSR researchers use observational astronomy and theoretical approaches to constrain the dynamics of exoplanet systems, which ultimately sheds light on the ultimate question of whether we are alone in the universe.

Members: Sheng Hua Li, Man-hoi Lee, Alex Webb, Joe Michalski, Michael Pittman