Planetary Sciences

Planetary Science is a relatively recent discipline and its birth coincides essentially with the beginning of the Space Age and Lunar exploration, in the ’50s and beyond. It is transdisciplinary by nature, where diverse disciplines meet: Geology, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Chemistry, Biology, Engineering among others.

Planetary Geology research at Jacobs University is mainly concentrated on Mars’s sedimentary and structural geology, in addition to the use of Terrestrial Analogues for understanding processes, landforms and deposits on Mars and other planets. Also Venus and the Moon are among the Solar System objects of interest. Methods include Remote Sensing and Field Geology [on analogues], often linked through the use of Geographic Information Systems.


Fluvial, lacustrine, glacial and periglacial environments on Mars are studied using orbital Remote Sensing (e.g. Rossi et al., 2011).

Also, the role of subsurface fluid flow and escape on Mars, from very ancient examples to possibly recent or current seepage is subject of study (e.g. Pondrelli et al., 2011, 2015): deposits resembling mud volcanoes and spring deposits have been identified in a key area on Mars (Arabia Terra).

We also proposed the possible existence of recent tectonics on Mars, based on geological evidences (Spagnuolo et al., 2011) and, if still active, it could be sensed by the first geophysical mission to land on Mars (NASA Insight).

The study of impact cratering processes and resulting morphologies, particularly on Mars and Earth, is also among the research activities activities at Jacobs University.

Terrestrial analogues

Terrestrial analogues are one of the few ways to understand how certain processes work on other planetary bodies. For example, dust devils are relatively small vortices extremely common on Mars. They constitute an important mechanism to inject dust into the atmosphere. Moreover, they can pose certain risks but also advantages (e.g. “vacuum cleaning” rover solar panels) We are collaborating on the study of Earth dust devils [tracks] and their relevance to Mars with our colleagues.

Subsurface fluid escape in the geological record on Earth is also important for understanding ancient processes acting on Mars (e.g. Cavalazzi et al., 2012). This also constitutes one of the topical points of contact with Marine Geophysics research at Jacobs University.

Data exploitation

Focused Mars data scientific exploitation efforts are being performed within the EC FP-7 and H2020 EarthServer project, in connection with the Large-Scale Scientific Information Systems Research Group at Jacobs University.

EarthServer’s Planetary Service is reachable at 

The Planetary Service aims at providing improved planetary data availability and effective online scientific analysis.

Planetary data processing and analysis at Jacobs University takes advantage of the Computational Laboratory for Analysis, Modeling, and Visualization (CLAMV).

Recent publications

Brož, P., Čadek, O., Hauber, E., Rossi, A. P. (2015) Scoria cones on Mars: Detailed investigation of morphometry based on high‐resolution Digital Elevation Models. J. Geophys. Res., in press, DOI: 10.1002/2015JE004873

Pondrelli, M., Rossi, A. P., Le Deit, L., Fueten, F., van Gasselt, S., Glamoclija, M., Cavalazzi, B., Hauber, E., Franchi, F., Pozzobon, R. (2015) Equatorial layered deposits in Arabia Terra, Mars: Facies and process variability. GSA Bullettin, in press, DOI: 10.1130/B31225.1

R. Jaumann, R., Tirsch, D., Hauber, E. Ansan, V., Di Achille, G., Erkeling, G., Fueten, F., Head, J., Kleinhans, M. G., Mangold, N., Michael, G. G., Pacifici, A., Platz, T., Pondrelli, M., Raack, J., Reiss, D., Williams, D. A., Adeli, S., Baratoux, D., de Villiers, G., Foing, B., Gupta, S., Gwinner, K., Hiesinger, H., Hoffmann, H., Le Deit, L., Marinangeli, L., Matz, K.-D., Mertens, V., Muller, J. P., Neukum, G., Pasckert, J. H., Roatsch, T., Rossi, A. P., Scholten, F., Sowe, M., Voigt, J., Warner, N. (2015) Quantifying Geological Processes on Mars – Results of the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express. PSS, in press. DOI:10.1016/j.pss.2014.11.029

Baumann, P., Mazzetti, P., Ungar, J., Barbera, R., Barboni, D., Beccati, A., Bigagli, L., Boldrini, E., Bruno, R., Colanducci, A., Campalani, P., Clements, O., Dumitru, A., Grant, M., Herzig, P., Kakaletris, G., Laxton, J., Koltsida, P., Lipskoch, K., Mahdiraji, A., Mantovani, S., Merticariu, V., Messina, A., Misev, D., Natali, S., Nativi, S., Oosthoek, J., Pappalardo, M., Passmore, J.,Rossi, A. P., Rundo, F., Sen, M., Sorbera, V., Sullivan, D., Torrisi, M., Trovato, L., Veratelli, M. G., Wagner, S. (2015) Big Data Analytics for Earth Sciences: the EarthServer approach, International Journal of Digital Earth, in press. DOI:10.1080/17538947.2014.1003106

Brož, P., Čadek, O., Hauber, E., Rossi, A. P. (2014) Shape of scoria cones on Mars: insights from numerical modeling of ballistic pathways. EPSL,406,14–23. DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2014.09.002

Geiss, J., Rossi, A. P. (2013) On the Chronology of Lunar Origin and Evolution, Implications for Earth, Mars and the Solar System as a Whole, the Astronomy and Astrophysics Review, in press. DOI: 10.1007/s00159-013-0068-1

Le Deit, L., Hauber, E., Fueten, F., Pondrelli, M., Rossi, A. P., Jaumann, R. (2013) Sequence of infilling events in Gale crater, Mars: Results from morphology, stratigraphy, and mineralogy, J. Geophys. Res., accepted. DOI:10.1002/2012JE004322

Oosthoek,J.H.P, Flahaut J., Rossi, A. P., Baumann, P., Misev, D., Campalani, P., Unnithan, V. (2013) PlanetServer: Innovative Approaches for the Online Analysis of Hyperspectral Satellite Data from Mars, Advances in Space Research, in press, doi: 10.1016/j.asr.2013.07.002

Grinspoon, D., Bonnet, R. M., Rossi, A. P. (2012) History of Venus Observation. In: Towards Understanding the Climate of Venus, ISSI Scientific Report Series, Vol. 11, ISBN 978-1-4614-5063-4 link

Silvestro, S., Vaz, D. A., Ewing, R. C., Rossi, A. P., Fenton, L. K., Michaels, T. I., Flahaut, J., Geissler, P. E. (2012) Pervasive aeolian activity along Curiosity’s traverse in Gale Crater, Mars. Geology, doi:10.1130/G34162.1.DOI:10.1130/G34162.1

McLennan, S.M., Sephton, M.A., Allen, C., Allwood, A.C., Barbieri, R., Beaty, D.W., Boston, P., Carr, M., Grady, M., Grant, J., Heber, V.S., Herd, C.D.K., Hofmann, B., King, P., Mangold, N., Ori, G.G., Rossi, A.P., Raulin, F., Ruff, S.W., Sherwood Lollar, B., Symes, S., and Wilson, M.G. (2012) Planning for Mars returned sample science: final report of the MSR End-to-End International Science Analysis Group (E2E-iSAG). Astrobiology 12:175-230,DOI:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2011.09.007

Spagnuolo, M., Rossi, A. P., Hauber, E., van Gasselt, S. (2011) Recent tectonics and subsidence on Mars: hints from Aureum Chaos. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 312 (2011) 13-21, DOI:10.1016/j.epsl.2011.09.052

Rossi, A. P., van Gasselt, S., Pondrelli, M., Dohm, J., Hauber, E., Dumke, A., Zegers, T., Neukum, G. (2011) Evolution of periglacial landforms in the ancient mountain range of Thaumasia highlands, Mars. In: Balme, M. R., Bargery, A. S., Gallagher, C. J. & Gupta, S. (eds) Martian Geomorphology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 356, 69Đ85. DOI:10.1144/SP356.5

van Gasselt, S., Hauber, E., Rossi, A. P., Dumke, A., Orosei, R., Neukum, G. (2011) Periglacial Geomorphology and Landscape Evolution of the Tempe Terra Region, Mars. In: Balme, M. R., Bargery, A. S., Gallagher, C. J. & Gupta, S. (eds) Martian Geomorphology. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 356, 43-67. DOI: 10.1144/SP356.4

Pondrelli, M., Rossi, A. P., Ori, G. G., van Gasselt, S., Praeg, D., Ceramicola, S. (2011) Mud volcanoes in Mars ́ Geologic Record: the case of Firsoff Crater, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., Volume 304, Issues 3-4, 15 April 2011, Pages 511-519, ISSN 0012-821X, DOI:10.1016/j.epsl.2011.02.027

Research partners

Collaborators come, among others, from these institutions:

Brock University –
Centro de Astrobiologia –
Muenster University –
Oregon State University –
University of Bologna –


More info and links to papers on specific topics available from Dr. Angelo Pio Rossi