Decoding the Past: Surface Processes as a Key to Planetary Evolution

Erica Jawin, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Surfaces of planetary bodies record evidence of essentially all major geologic processes occurring on a body, and are the ultimate record of its evolution. From partial melting in the interior of the Moon leading to the creation of volcanic deposits, to climate variations on Mars forming mid-latitude glaciers, each planet will experience unique evolutionary pathways leading to distinct surface morphologies. Even small “rubble-pile” asteroids, lacking lithospheres and atmospheres, experienced mass movement that can be used to understand their dynamical evolution. This talk will emphasize the importance of studying a range of planetary surface processes including explosive lunar volcanism and martian glaciation, and will discuss new results from the ongoing NASA OSIRIS-REx mission at asteroid (101955) Bennu.