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Stanford Earth Matters

Mars dunes

Curious Martian dunes explained

Stanford planetary scientists have uncovered how sandy waves form on our sister planet at a scale that previously seemed incompatible with the physics of how ripples and dunes arise on Earth. (Source: Stanford News)

A glacier rises from calm seawater against a cloudy sky

A scientist uses radar technology to map the insides of ice sheets

The technique helps us understand ice sheets right here on Earth -- and whether there could be life far, far beyond. (Source: Stanford Engineering)

Three mosaics of Titan

Scientists model landscape formation on Titan, revealing an Earth-like alien world

A new hypothesis reveals that a global sedimentary cycle driven by seasons could explain the formation of landscapes on Saturn’s moon Titan. The research shows the alien world may be more Earth-like than previously thought.

Graphic of double ridges on Jupiter's moon Europa

Explanation for formation of abundant features on Europa bodes well for search for extraterrestrial life

Ice-penetrating radar data from Greenland suggests that shallow water pockets may be common within Europa’s ice shell, increasing the potential habitability of the Jovian moon’s ice shell.

The Moon

Why do we see the Man in the Moon?

New research shows how the impact that created the Moon’s South Pole–Aitken basin is linked to the stark contrast in composition and appearance between the two sides of the Moon.

Meteorite external link

‘Fingerprinting’ minerals to better understand how they are affected by meteorite collisions

Researchers mimicked these extreme impacts in the lab and discovered new details about how they transform minerals in Earth’s crust. (Source: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Moon surface

Mysterious Moon magnetism, explained

New modeling suggests giant, cool blobs of titanium-rich rocks sinking down to the ancient Moon’s hot core could have produced intermittently strong magnetic fields for the first billion years of the Moon’s history.

Illustration of large asteroids penetrating Earth's atmosphere

New model sheds light on evolution of Earth's oxygen

A new model of ancient asteroids bombarding the Earth has been applied to understand how oxygen levels in Earth’s atmosphere evolved.

Small device on ice sheet with sun in background

Solar radio signals could be used to monitor melting ice sheets

A new method for seeing through ice sheets using radio signals from the sun could enable cheap, low-power and widespread monitoring of ice sheet evolution and contribution to sea-level rise.


Venus mission: Is Earth's twin still geologically active?

Much about Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, Venus, remains a mystery. Algorithms and techniques pioneered by Stanford Professor Howard Zebker’s research group will help to guide a search for active volcanoes and tectonic plate movements as part of a recently announced NASA mission to Venus.

Illustration of planet outgassing

Baked meteorites yield clues to planetary atmospheres

The gases released from meteorite samples heated in a high-temperature furnace can tell scientists about the initial composition of the atmospheres of rocky exoplanets.

Artist's illustration of the exoplanet WASP-121b

A plethora of planets with water-rich atmospheres?

New research suggests that hot, rocky planets in other solar systems could form and keep thick atmospheres full of water.

Mars landscape

Are Martian landslides caused by underground salts and melting ice?

A new theory that helps explain geological and chemical processes on Mars also suggests the martian environment continues to be dynamic, with implications for both astrobiology and future human exploration of the Red Planet.

Editor's picks 2020 banner

Editor's picks: Top 10 stories of 2020

Our list includes a mix of favorites, high-impact stories and some of our most-read research coverage from a tumultuous year.

Illustration of eruption on Europa with Jupiter in background

Researchers model source of eruption on Jupiter’s moon Europa

A new model shows how brine on Jupiter’s moon Europa can migrate within the icy shell to form pockets of salty water that erupt to the surface when freezing. The findings, which are important for the upcoming Europa Clipper mission, may explain cryovolcanic eruptions across icy bodies in the solar system.

Mars Perseverance Rover

Perseverance will seek signs of life on Mars

According to Stanford University Mars experts, NASA’s latest Martian rover will drive a wave of exciting discoveries when it lands on the Red Planet – and possibly alter scientists’ understanding of the blue one it launches from.

Crater impact illustration

A steaming cauldron follows the dinosaurs’ demise

The Chicxulub impact crater that is linked to the extinction of the dinosaurs hosted a hydrothermal system that chemically and mineralogically modified more than 100,000 cubic kilometers of Earth’s crust, according to new research.

Lava lake

Hunting down clues to Earth's early molten days

Scientists are still trying to piece together how Earth transformed from a molten planet to one with living creatures walking around on its silicate mantle and crust. Hints lie in the strange ways materials behave under extreme temperatures and pressures.

Lunar colony

'Planetary quarantine' report reviews risks of alien contamination of Earth

The former director of NASA Ames discusses how the advent of new activities and players in the exploration and use of space is raising fresh challenges and concerns about planetary protection.

Illustration of rover on Mars

Promising signs for Perseverance rover in its quest for past Martian life

New research indicates river delta deposits within Mars’ Jezero crater – the destination of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the Red Planet – formed over time scales that promoted habitability and enhanced preservation of evidence.

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