Planetary geology

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Planetary geologist and NASA astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt collecting lunar samples during the Apollo 17 mission
Surface of Mars as photographed by the Viking 2 lander December 9, 1977.

Planetary geology, alternatively known as astrogeology or exogeology, is a planetary science discipline concerned with the geology of the celestial bodies such as the planets and their moons, asteroids, comets, and meteorites. Although the geo- prefix typically indicates topics of or relating to the Earth, planetary geology is named as such for historical and convenience reasons; applying geological science to other planetary bodies. Due to the types of investigations involved, it is also closely linked with Earth-based geology.

Planetary geology includes such topics as determining the internal structure of the terrestrial planets, and also looks at planetary volcanism and surface processes such as impact craters, fluvial and aeolian processes. The structures of the giant planets and their moons are also examined, as is the make-up of the minor bodies of the Solar System, such as asteroids, the Kuiper Belt, and comets.

History of planetary geology[edit]

Eugene Shoemaker is credited with bringing geologic principles to planetary mapping and creating the branch of planetary science in the early 1960s, the Astrogeology Research Program, within the United States Geological Survey. He made important contributions to the field and the study of impact craters, Selenography, asteroids, and comets.[1]

Today many institutions are concerned with the study and communication of planetary sciences and planetary geology. The Visitor Center at Barringer Meteor Crater near Winslow, Arizona includes a Museum of planetary geology.[citation needed] The Geological Society of America's Planetary Geology Division has been growing and thriving since May 1981 and has two mottos: "One planet just isn't enough!" and "“The GSA Division with the biggest field area!"

Major centers for planetary science research include the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the Applied Physics Laboratory, the Planetary Science Institute, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute, and Johnson Space Center. Additionally, several universities conduct extensive planetary science research, including Montana State University, Brown University, the University of Arizona, Caltech, Western Michigan University, MIT, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Features and terms[edit]

In planetary geology, a large area of a planet or moon that is strongly differentiated in colour or albedo is called a Regio. Examples include the Tombaugh Regio on Pluto and three regios of Venus: Alpha Regio, Beta Regio, and Ovda Regio.

By planet[edit]


  1. ^ Chapman, Mary G. "Gene Shoemaker - Founder of Astrogeology". USGS. Retrieved 21 May 2012. 

Additional Reading[edit]