Department of Physics and Astronomy
Stony Brook University
7:30 pm; ESS Building, Room 001
Friday, Oct. 30, 2015


The Once and Future Habitability of Mars

Prof. Fred Walter

Are we decendents of Martians, or will we someday be Martians?

Mars is a small planet, cold, arid, airless, rusted and largely dead, with half the radius and one-tenth the mass of Earth. Yet it was once warm and wet, with a substantial atmosphere. The Mars rovers have found evidence of substantial surface water - over three billion years ago. Even today, brine occasionally runs across its surface. Back when life was struggling to get a toehold on Earth, Mars may have been an oasis.

I will start with an overview of Mars, its place in the Solar System, and how it evolved into what it is today. Then I will turn to humanity's interest in Mars as a potential colony of Earth. From the Mars One organization's plan to establish a permanent human presence on Mars in 2027 to NASA's plans to send astronauts in the 2030s, Mars is in our crosshairs. What is involved in getting there? Can we live on Mars? What is involved in terraforming a planet? Is the red planet our future?

Prof. Walter, a resident of East Setauket, studies star birth, stellar weather, and star death using the CHANDRA and XMM-NEWTON X-ray Observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope, and telescopes in Arizona, Hawaii and Chile. He has been a professor of Astronomy at Stony Brook since 1989.