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EPS Seminar - Dr. Eva Linghan Scheller - Unveiling Planetary Habitability through Volatile Cycles

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Volatiles, such as water, CO2, and certain organic compounds, are not just life's building blocks but also regulate the climates and habitability on planetary bodies. By constraining results from current spacecraft exploration through data analysis and experiments, developing new space instrumentation, and exploring theoretical concepts, I seek to determine the key geological processes that affect the retention, loss, and chemical evolution of volatiles on planetary bodies.

In this seminar, I focus on our Red Neighbor as the focal point for comparison with Earth’s evolution. The contrast between the currently frozen Mars and the geological evidence for liquid water in its deep past raises significant questions about atmospheric and hydrospheric depletion over geological timescales on the red planet. The Perseverance rover is currently exploring ancient habitable environments in Jezero Crater, Mars and has detected carbonate and hydrated minerals as well as potential organics. I will examine these detections, compare them to the observations from previous orbital and landed missions, and use them to identify geological processes that sequestered CO2 and water on Mars – perhaps causing a different trajectory in planetary habitability when compared with ancient Earth.