Login | STScI Home | HubbleSite | Copyright, Content Use, and Policies
STScI Webcast

2017 Fall Science Colloquia

Is Mars Alive? Testing Current and Past Habitability

Presented by: Geronimo Luis Villanueva (Goddard Space Flight Center)
Category: Science Colloquia   Duration: 1 hour   Broadcast date: September 06, 2017
  • Bookmark/Share

We recently established that Mars lost an ocean’s worth of water, while the Curiosity rover has recently detected organics on the Martian surface and in the atmosphere. If Mars had a rich chemical and diverse past, how much of these biomarkers were lost to space, and how much are currently stored in the sub-surface? Are sub-surface habitable niches connecting now with the atmosphere? The answers to these fundamental questions of Mars evolution and habitability lie in robotic investigations of the planet’s surface and atmosphere. For instance, in the last decade we have obtained the most comprehensive search for organic material in the Martian atmosphere, permitting us to test for regions of active release and their evolution over time. We are preparing for the human exploration of Mars, and these recent insights about Mars’ past habitability are greatly assisting us in identifying the most promising research sites. In this talk, I will present the current frontiers in the exploration of planetary atmospheres and how the synergies between future space (e.g., ExoMars 2016, JWST) and ground astronomical assets (e.g., TMT, E-ELT) will transform our understanding of the composition, stability and evolution of the atmospheres in the Solar System and beyond.