Planetary Geology

The department's research in Planetary Geology ranges from the analysis of surficial features and planetary tectonics to the internal structure and core dynamics of planets and moons. Recent research has included studies of cratering dynamics of Enceladus and the application of mineral physics in understanding the distribution of mineral phases that exist in planetary bodies. These studies provide fundamental insight into the origin and evolution of the solar system, as well as large-scale planetary structure and evolution.

Graduate students are trained in experimental, analytical, spectroscopic, remote sensing, digital image processing and geochemical laboratory techniques. This approach leaves them well prepared for additional graduate study, or for a wide range of possible careers in mineralogy, space science, remote sensing and data processing.


  • Mark Frank - Geochemistry of planetary interiors
  • Paul Stoddard - Geomorphology and evolution of planetary surfaces

Research Facilities

The department maintains a variety of analytical and computational facilities to aid in the study of planetary geology. High pressure geochemistry and petrology laboratories with piston cylinders and diamond anvil cells are used to simulate the high temperature and pressure conditions of planetary interiors, and GIS, Matlab and image processing software are used to analyze high resolution satellite imagery of planets and moons. Much of our geochemical research uses synchrotron facilities at the Argonne National Laboratory, which is less than an hour from the NIU campus.