Geochronology of Mars

I was involved in a European Commission project to develop an instrument to date Mars’ sub-surface based on the luminescence method. Luminescence dating techniques are well established for providing sedimentation ages of deposits on Earth, but has not yet been applied to Mars. The researchers involved in this project are currently examining the feasibility of this approach to the dating soil simulants and sediments that are analogs to Martian deposits.

Dating Mars sediments is of central importance for Mars science. The accurate estimation of absolute ages is required to understand the processes and history of climate evolution and geology of the planet’s surface. Evidence suggests that wind- and water-driven processes have remained active to the present day, and being able to date and analyze surface deposits would provide critical data to better model climate changes and Martian surface dynamics and geology. Knowledge about occurrences and time frequencies of geological processes allows for the hazard assessment for locations that would be essential for future deployments, missions and eventually humans on Mars.

Their instrument also aims to be useful in decision making, such as the pre-screening of samples for sample-return missions, and on-site investigations of regolith or dune time-movement. The instrument will target aeolian (wind-driven), glacial, and fluvial (river) deposits to understand Mars’s recent climate history and surface processes. It would also aim to analyze minerals and measure radiation on the surface of Mars in preparation for human exploration. Terrestrial field applications are also considered, as it aims to be lightweight and portable and could be used for risk assessment for accident and emergency dosimetry and nuclear mass-casualty events.

As part of this project, I organized a workshop to bring together a set of international geologists, engineers, students, planetary and terrestrial scientists to explore the geochronology of Mars from varying perspectives. This workshop is part of a Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE). RISE supports the short-term mobility of research and innovation staff at all career levels, from the most junior (post-graduate) to the most senior (management), including administrative and technical staff. It is open to partnerships of universities, research institutions, and non-academic organizations both within and beyond Europe. RISE is meant to promote international and inter-sectoral collaboration through research and innovation staff exchanges.