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Volume 25 Issue 1 (January 2015)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 4-9 | Full Text | Video | PDF (912KB)

Mapping the Planets—Geology Stakes Its Claim

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Harry Y. McSween Jr.

Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-1410, USA


Delivered at the GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Sunday, 19 October 2014.

Watch the Presidential Address video.


Planetary geoscience had very little presence in GSA’s first century, but it has a long history in GSA publications. Beginning with the Moon, the transformation of the planets and their satellites from astronomical objects into geological worlds has taken place largely by geologic mapping using telescope and spacecraft imagery and by the application of stratigraphic principles to these new data sets. Compositional data from orbital remote sensing, chronological information from crater densities, and the added dimension of petrology and geochemistry from surface rovers and laboratory analyses of samples, where available, have cemented geology’s central place in planetary exploration. The present focus on characterizing planetary paleoenvironments and the search for life further buttresses geology’s role in planetary exploration and serves as the next step in the expansion of our discipline beyond Earth.

DOI: 10.1130/GSAT-14PresAdrs.1