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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Water on the Earth and Beyond Public Lecture - The History of Water on Mars

2nd February 2010, 20:15 to 21:15, Kenworthy Hall, St Mary's College, Professor Monica Grady

This is the third Water on the Earth and Beyond Public Lecture.

'Scientists find evidence for water on Mars' is a headline that has been appearing in newspapers at intervals since the Mariner 9 mission of 1971-72. The headlines have come with increasing frequency (but smaller typeface) in the last decade, as a series of missions has explored the surface of Mars in greater detail. What has changed over the years is the interpretation of the timing and extent of water on Mars: when was water present on Mars (4 billion years ago? 4 million years ago?) and how much water has there been (global oceans? inland seas?). There are three methods by which we can investigate, not just the evidence for water on Mars, but also the effects that water has had on the martian landscape, the temperature and composition of the water.

In this lecture, Monica Grady will discuss observations from imagery of the surface of Mars acquired by orbiting spacecraft, the findings made by craft that have landed on the surface and results acquired through laboratory analysis of martian meteorites. She will bring these three sets of results together to construct a history of water on Mars - and see whether it is possible that life might have arisen on the Red Planet.

Water has a dramatic influence on the chemical and physical properties of natural materials, and so has played a central role in shaping our environment. Most importantly for us, it has dominated the evolution of our own planet and appears to have been essential for the emergence of life. These public lectures will cover a range of topics, starting with Earth based phenomena - water and volcanism and a better understanding of ocean processes - before moving on to cover extraterrestrial topics including water on Mars, a search for water frozen billions of years ago, and the importance of water in defining the "habitable zone" of extra-solar planetary systems.

For more information about this series please visit:

This public lecture is free and open to all attend.

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