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The Solar System’s Hidden Frost Line

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 4:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • JILA Auditorium

Speaker Name(s): 

Paul Hayne

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences Seminar

Event Details & Abstract: 

Volatiles are key tracers of past and present conditions on planetary surfaces and atmospheres. Recent discoveries have revealed previously unknown volatile reservoirs from Mercury to the main asteroid belt, some of which cannot be readily explained by existing models. Vast ice sheets at the poles of Mercury contrast with a patchwork assemblage on the Moon. A deep reservoir at Mars’ south pole holds enough carbon dioxide to double its present atmospheric pressure. In this talk, I will provide an overview of recent volatile discoveries, and present a new model that may explain some of their more puzzling aspects. This “micro cold trap” model, which has been used to accurately predict the distribution of ice on the dwarf planet Ceres, also provides quantitative estimates for the cold-trapping potential of Mercury and the Moon. In both places, we anticipate an intact record of volatile delivery, sequestration, and impact gardening over billions of years. Finally, water and other volatiles are likely to be available in sufficient quantities for utilization as a resource by future robotic and human missions to the Moon and beyond. Uncovering the “hidden frost line” therefore has implications for both planetary science and exploration.