research

 
 

Introduction

My research focuses on the exploration of Solar System objects and the understanding of their evolution. One fil rouge of this research is the study of acqueous alteration with remote sensing. This process was prevailing on ancient Mars and contributed to the formation of the terrains we observe today. On dwarf planet Ceres it was a key process playing during its early internal differentiation, as well as in later times, at least locally. I also dedicated several studies on the geology and mineralogy of Vesta, an asteroid that did not experience aqueous alteration and was instead shaped by mafic volcanism and contaminated by exogeneous material.

 20 kilometers wide image of an impact crater on Vesta hosting material rich in olivine (green) (FC/VIR from Ruesch et al., 2014).

20 kilometers wide image of an impact crater on Vesta hosting material rich in olivine (green) (FC/VIR from Ruesch et al., 2014).


ceres and Vesta

Ceres and Vesta are small bodies located in the asteroid Main Belt, about 1000 and 500 km large, respectively. They can be thought of as protoplanets, i.e., bodies that did not fully accreted as the other rocky planets. Their understanding is directly linked to the understanding of planet formation and evolution, as well as to meteorites. Research in this field has shown how these protoplanets underwent some internal differentiation with, in the case of Vesta, the formation of a core and a crust of basaltic composition. What is still puzzling are the properties of the mantle, like thickness and chemistry.

 500 meters wide image of deposits rich in chloride (cyan) and clays (yellow) on Mars (HiRISE, from Ruesch et al., 2012).

500 meters wide image of deposits rich in chloride (cyan) and clays (yellow) on Mars (HiRISE, from Ruesch et al., 2012).

ancient mars environments

Although today's surface conditions on Mars and on the Earth are drastically different, both planets might have been similar during their early history, about four billions years ago. Around that time life has emerged on Earth , but most records of this start have been erased by subsequent geological activity. Interestingly, on Mars, much of the early terrains have been preserved and are found to be three to four billions years old. This means that by investigating Mars we learn about the early events that occurred on Earth and for which we lost the information. Mars ancient terrains, and in particular the terrains with a sedimentary origin, might have harbored the same conditions that on Earth enabled life to emerge. Overall, the ongoing research focuses on the exact characterization of the early Mars conditions, for example the characterization of liquid water: its amount and variation with time, its chemical and temperature properties and its surface or subsurface context.

 

 
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Each of these three panels enables you to visualize and play with a variety of planetary imaging datasets for different planetary bodies.