The University of Texas logo
Seismology in the Solar System: Exploring the Interiors of the Planets

UTIG Seminars

Seismology in the Solar System: Exploring the Interiors of the Planets

Nicholas Schmerr
Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory

When: Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Join us for coffee beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Where: Seminar Conference Room, 10100 Burnet Road, Bldg 196-ROC, Austin, Texas 78758
Hosts: Don Blankenship and Luc Lavier, UTIG

Understanding the internal structure of objects such as planets and moons is essential for deciphering the formation and evolution of our Solar System. Seismology provides a powerful tool for accessing the detailed innards of these objects, allowing the linkage of surface observables provided by remote sensing, geochemistry, petrology, volcanology, dynamics, and tectonics to deep internal processes. On Earth, seismological remote sensing has led to a revolution in our understanding of Earth's interior, allowing us to probe the driving mechanisms behind mantle convection and study the detailed evolution of the atmosphere, oceans, crust, mantle, and core. Today, seismological science has been in a golden era of seismic data acquisition and analysis. In this talk, I will present recent research into understanding the structure at the base of a tectonic plate and Earth's upper mantle; research that takes advantage of the multitude of seismic data freely available to the scientific community. While our understanding of Earth's interior grows, we only have a tantalizing glimpse of planetary interiors elsewhere in the Solar System, with seismic datasets provided by instruments deployed by the Apollo astronauts on the Moon and data from the Viking II mission to Mars. I will present some of my latest work that is combining observations from the Apollo seismic dataset with GRAIL mission gravity measurements and LRO high resolution imaging to further improve our knowledge of the Moon's crustal structure and deep interior. In addition, future missions are currently underway to develop and deploy new seismometers in the Solar System (e.g., InSight). Deployment of seismometers across a wide variety of objects will usher in a new era of planetary exploration, allowing us to link the evolution and dynamics of planetary interiors across a wide variety of objects within the Solar System and beyond.