Making lemonade from Martian lemons: A novel technique for sub-cm-scale chemistry on Mars

Date and Time


MacN 401



Scott VanBommel, PhD Candidate


The surface of Mars is cold and desolate. This was not always the case. The fingerprints of a warmer, wetter, Mars are there, hidden in the lithology. Looking for these clues to assess ancient habitability, the NASA Curiosity rover is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments optimized to search for these ancient fingerprints. One such instrument, the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), provides high-precision in situ measurements of targets in its field of view. Utilizing the fantastic precision of the APXS and the remarkable resolution of the Mars Hand Lens Imager, an arm-mounted colour camera, we are able to convert the Martian lemons of placement uncertainty and variable sample relief into a more-palatable lemonade in the form of sub-cm-scale chemistry of visually distinct compositional endmembers. This small-scale chemistry provides an additional means to elucidate the formation mechanisms that operated on these rocks during the planet's warmer, wetter, past, ultimately assisting in the ongoing search of ancient habitable environments on the Red Planet.

Further Details

The talk is from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. Snacks will be provided at 12:00 pm. Make sure to follow the Graduate Seminar Series on Facebook.

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