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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - How to find a fossil on Mars

17th October 2019, 17:30 to 18:30, Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College, Dr Sean McMahon (University of Edinburgh)


Conditions at the surface of Mars are probably too cold, too dry, and too destructive of organic molecules to sustain “life as we know it”. We cannot yet explore the deep subsurface, where conditions might be more favourable. But we can search the Martian surface for fossils — the remains of long-dead organisms preserved in ancient rocks. We know from abundant geological evidence that Mars was warm and watery in the distant past, and NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (particularly Curiosity Rover) has now confirmed that early Mars was habitable. A new generation of robotic rovers is therefore being prepared to seek fossils in the rocks laid down by ancient Martian waters. The question is, what exactly should they look for, and where should they look for it? In this talk, Dr McMahon will discuss how we can apply our knowledge of fossil preservation on Earth and the geology of Mars to this multi-billion-dollar scientific question.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Details about Dr Sean McMahon

Directions to Van Mildert College

Map Van Mildert College is denoted as building No. 4

Contact for more information about this event.