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Planetary Science

Donna Jurdy's research group uses data returned by Magellan's Venus mission to understand the tectonic features of our nearest neighbor. Modified craters are used to map regions of tectonic and volcanic activity. Further information comes from coronae, volcanic-tectonic features unique to Venus. Work continues on coronae, craters and their relation to chasmata - what may be active rift zones on Venus. Professor Jurdy's research group further studies Mars' magnetic lineations in the southern hemisphere to understand the history of its crust. This magnetization is very strongly preserved in the absence of any magnetic field at present. The group attempts analysis in this region to determine the pattern and characteristics of magnetization, models the observed field, matching the scalar magnetic potential with a set of vertical dipoles, and compares with surface stratigraphy and features such as ancient craters and faults. The magnetic pattern does not require reversed lineations, but does not exclude them either. Another research area focuses on Jupiter's moon, Io. Volcanoes dominate Io's surface and the massive outpourings documented in short intervals could cause an instability in Io's rotation and a corresponding reorientation of its spin axis. Professor Jurdy's research group has examined the potential effect of volcanic distribution on the orientation of Io's spin axis.

Seth Jacobson’s research group studies the history of planetary objects in the Solar System as well as planet formation and planetary system evolution in general. The group combines physics and chemistry to explain observations from astronomical telescopes, planetary spacecraft, and cosmochemical laboratories. In the past, Jacobson's group determined the age of the Moon using a combination of dynamics and geochemical measurements. From models, they have inferred an Hadean matte (FeS-rich) addition to the core during mantle magma ocean crystallization as well as core stratification after multi-stage core formation. Other work includes the study of binary asteroid evolution, sublimation-driven dynamics of comets, and understanding the asteroid-meteorite composition connection.

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