Join NOVAC on September 13 at 7:30pm for our September meeting

Location: Online

Speaker: Dr. Marian Baker

Title: Studying wind on Mars (from Earth): a story of exploration, adaptation, and
unexpected discoveries

Images returned by Mariner 9, the first spacecraft to orbit Mars in the 1970s, revealed a dry and dusty planet that had been subjected to billions of years of wind activity. Decades later, rovers on the surface began exploring landscapes that were reminiscent of the most arid deserts on Earth, including one active dune field. With robotic exploration of Mars, the Martian surface has become the first extraterrestrial laboratory for studying wind-driven (or “aeolian”) processes. Our understanding of wind has continued to evolve with each new mission to Mars, and some discoveries have even challenged our Earth-based theories. For example, images taken from orbit and surface have recorded widespread movement of sand and dust due to wind, despite the fact that measured and predicted winds are theoretically too low to explain this movement. Images and meteorological data acquired by the Curiosity rover and InSight lander, the two spacecraft currently operating on the surface, have enabled us to study aeolian activity on Mars in greater detail than ever before. Achieving a robust understanding of how wind transports surface material is vital for deciphering the Martian rock record; accurately simulating dust activity; and keeping landed instruments and future human
explorers safe.

Dr. Mariah Baker holds a B.S. in Astrophysics from Haverford College and a Ph.D. in Earth & Planetary Science from Johns Hopkins University. After receiving her doctorate in 2019, she joined the Center for Earth & Planetary Studies at the National Air & Space Museum. She is a member of NASA’s Curiosity rover and InSight lander missions and her research focuses on characterizing wind-driven (“aeolian”) activity at the field sites of these spacecraft.