Planetary Geology and Geophysics

Naukluft Plateau
Full-Circle Vista from 'Naukluft Plateau' on Mars.  This mid-afternoon, 360-degree panorama was acquired by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on April 4, 2016, as part of long-term campaign to document the context and details of the geology and landforms along Curiosity's traverse since its landing in August 2012.

Planetary science, geophysics, and geosciences studies at JPL focus on the solid bodies of the Solar System, with particular emphasis on terrestrial-like planets and major satellites. Research topics

  • tectonics
  • volcanology
  • impact processes
  • geologic mapping
  • surface geochemistry, mineralogy, and morphology
  • interior structure
  • lithosphere and mantle dynamics
  • gravity and magnetic field interpretation


Selected Research Tasks


SAR image of Venus
Venus: This SAR image from the southern portion of Navka (24.4-25.3 degrees south latitude, 338.5-340.5 degrees east longitude) is a mosaic of twelve Magellen orbits that covers 180 kilometers (108 miles) in width and 78 kilometers (47 miles) in length.

The planetary bodies at the center of most studies include Mars, Earth, Venus, Moon, Io, Europa, Titan, Vesta and Ceres. These bodies are studied using several methods including image interpretation (visible, infrared, radar), laboratory work, field work, infrared spectroscopy, geophysical data interpretation, modeling and laboratory work.

Research efforts originate from a variety of NASA and JPL programs, including:

  • Mars Data Analysis
  • Solar Systems Working
  • Emerging Worlds
  • Habitable Worlds
  • Planetary Data Archiving, Restoration, and Tools
  • Lunar, Mars, Cassini Data Analysis
  • Flight instrument teams
  • JPL Research and Technology Development