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Worlds Apart - RAS/BGA Planetary Geophysics Meeting

Last Updated on Friday, 16 April 2010 19:13
Published on Wednesday, 02 March 2005 00:00



February 13-14, 2003

There are nine planets in our Solar System, all of them very different. What processes have shaped these contrasting worlds and made each one unique? By studying the Earth and sending probes to the planets, scientists are beginning to understand our neighbours in space.

The latest results from planetary studies will be the subject of the February Discussion Meeting, jointly sponsored by the British Geophysical Association (BGA), and the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

Leading geophysicists and space scientists from the UK, Europe and the United States will summarise our current knowledge of the rocky, terrestrial planets and asteroids, emphasising the ways in which geophysical techniques can be used to investigate processes common to the Earth and other planets. Media representatives are welcome to attend. Requests for interviews may be made by contacting the RAS Press Officer (Space Science), Peter Bond (see contact details above) or through the organizers: Dr Richard Holme (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) and Dr Francis Nimmo (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

Most speakers are expected to be available for interview during the lunch break, immediately after the meeting, or by prior arrangement.


Why are the planets so different? All planets probably began as similar hot blobs of molten rock, and yet Mercury, Venus, Mars and the Earth are all radically different at the present day. Earth is the only planet with plate tectonics; Earth and Mercury have magnetic fields, but they are absent for Venus and Mars; and so on. Now that we know there are other solar systems out there, it would be nice to know what controls the diversity in our own. Two leading experts, David Stevenson and Tilmann Spohn, will conclude the meeting by giving their views on how this remarkable planetary diversity arose.

This two-day meeting will also explore the intersection of geophysics and planetary science, including applications of geophysical techniques to problems on other planets, moons and asteroids, as well as on planetary-scale studies of the Earth (for example, using satellite data to constrain Earth models).

One of the most controversial topics is the role of asteroid and comet impacts in the evolution of the Earth and other planets. A presentation by Adrian Jones will describe a potentially dramatic event - a large meteorite impact which triggered a massive volcanic eruption on Earth.

Other speakers, notably Ralph Lorenz and Lionel Wilson, will be examining the importance of volcanoes on other worlds. Although a volcano erupting on the airless, frigid Moon may behave rather differently to one erupting into the soupy atmosphere of Venus, their behaviour is still governed by the same underlying physics. Professor Wilson, who has studied volcanoes on Mars and Venus as well as the Earth, will examine the different eruption styles on different planets.




10:30 - 11:15 Professor Jay Melosh (University of Arizona)
Meteoroid Impact and Planetary Surface Evolution

11:15 - 11:40 Dr. Adrian Jones (University College London)
The Pechenga structure: a key to understanding large-scale impacts

11:40 - 12:05 Dr. Jo Morgan (Imperial College, London)
Are rings around terrestrial impact craters analogous to those on the other planets and moons?

12:05 - 12:30 Dr. Steven Ostro (NASA-JPL)
Geophysical constraints on asteroids from ground-based radar


13:30 - 14:15 Professor Lionel Wilson (University of Lancaster)
The Influence of Planetary Environments on Volcanic Eruption and Intrusion Processes

14:15 - 14:40 Dr. Nick Petford (Kingston University)
Viscous volcanism on Mars and Venus

14:40 - 15:05 Dr. Ralph Lorenz (University of Arizona)
A Heat Engine Approach to Planetary Surface Modification

15:05 - 15:30 Dr. Andrew Coates (UCL-Mullard Space Science Laboratory)
The Beagle 2 Stereo Camera System: Scientific Objectives and Design Characteristics

15:30 - 16:00 Discussion



10:30 - 11:15 Dr. Tim van Hoolst (Royal Observatory, Belgium)
Mars' core from nutations and tides

11:15 - 12:00 Dr. Stefan Labrosse (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris)
Plate tectonics, mantle convection and heat transfer

12:00 - 12:25 Dr. Andrew Jackson (University of Leeds)
Intense equatorial flux spots on the surface of Earth's core


13:30 - 13:55 Dr. Francis Nimmo (University College, London)
Geodynamos on terrestrial planets

13:55 - 14:40 Professor David Stevenson (California Institute of Technology)
Planetary Diversity

14:40 - 15:25 Professor Tilmann Spohn (Westfaelische Wilhelms-Universitaet)
Structure and evolution of Earthlike planets and satellites

16:00 - 18:00 RAS Monthly A&G (Ordinary) Meeting, in the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House.


Dr Francis Nimmo

Until 10th Feb: Dept. of Earth & Space Sciences UCLA Los Angeles CA 90095-1567 USA tel. +1 310 206 7383  

After 10th Feb: Dept. of Earth Sciences University College London Gower St London WC1E 6BT UK Tel. +44 (0)7984-857-689

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Dr. Richard Holme Dept. of Earth Sciences University of Liverpool 4 Brownlow Street Liverpool L69 3GP UK Tel: +44 (0)151-794-5254 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Full programme details can be found at:

Date: 5 February 2003

Issued by Peter Bond, RAS Press Officer (Space Science).