Planetary Science


The planetary science group’s research crosses disciplinary boundaries, particularly GIS, geochemistry, mineralogy, computation, geophysical properties, and habitability studies. Diverse instrumental methods – e.g., gamma, neutron, infrared, X-ray florescence spectroscopy along with seismic data – are also synthesized to work across local and regional spatial scales. The synthesis of such mutually independent datasets is an emerging area of planetary research that seeks to overcome longstanding insularity in research across mission instrument teams. Such recent works target major martian unknowns, including the halogen cycle, origin of and variations in bulk soil hydration, mantle processes underlying geologic provinces, and pedogenesis. Methodology advances include semi-automated photoanalysis, multivariate regression, and acoustic seismology. The group also helped establish LSU’s College of Science “planetary initiative to explore Mars and beyond,” and are involved in sustaining it, with a topically related partnership in the Africa initiative for planetary and space science. Equally important, the group has an established field presence in Antarctica, long considered an analog for martian glacial settings and the icy crusts of bodies like Europa, both in understanding dry cryospheric environments and in developing glacial sampling methods like thermal ablation drills. The group is also involved in studying the habitability of some of the most extreme brines on Earth as analogs for other solar system bodies.

Faculty members:
Suniti Karunatillake
Peter Doran
Juan Lorenzo

Matthew Loocke