Joel Hurowitz, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University, is part of a study with Rice University scientists that focuses on the ancient Gale Crater on Mars. The team is comparing data from the Curiosity rover to places on Earth where similar geologic formations have experienced weathering in different climates.
They determined that Iceland’s climate is the closest to ancient Mars. The study, published in JGR Planets, showed that temperature had the largest impact on rock formation from sediment deposited by ancient Martian streams and weathered by climate. The purpose of the study by Hurowitz, along with Michael Thorpe and Kirsten Siebach from Rice, was to answer questions about the forces that affected sands and mud in the ancient lakebed. The researchers looked for similar rocks and soils on Earth to find a likeness between the planets. They found that there was very little weathering of rocks on Mars after more than 3 billion years, and the ancient Mars rocks were comparable to Icelandic sediments in a river and lake today.
More About Joel Hurowitz
Hurowitz got involved with the Mars Exploration Rover mission in 2004 when he was a graduate student at Stony Brook. Following that, he went to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and worked on the Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, rover mission. He is now involved with the latest rover mission, Perseverance.
After joining the Stony Brook faculty in 2013, Hurowitz was invited to serve as deputy principal investigator of a JPL-led team that was proposing to fly a new instrument to Mars as part of the science payload on the Perseverance rover. Hurowitz set to work as part of the team that was tasked with building, testing and perfecting a new instrument called “PIXL” (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry). The PIXL instrument is attached to the end of the arm of the rover and is designed to examine the chemical makeup of rocks on Mars.