Senior Project Advisor

Rice, Melissa

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2020


Spectroscopy, Mars, Weathering history, Mars rocks


Spectroscopy can be used to uncover the composition, and therefore the geological history, of rock surfaces and is a major tool for understanding the geologic history of rocks on Mars. The spectra taken from the rovers and orbital spacecraft and at Mars are taken at many different angles and these angles can affect the spectral readings taken from weathered rock surfaces. I will be researching how Mars analog rocks reflect light at different angles. Profs. Melissa Rice, Mike Kraft and Sean Mulcahy have received a grant from NASA to build a hemispheric goniometer which will measure spectra taken form weathered rock surfaces at different angles. The lab presently has a prototype goniometer that I will use for my research in support of this NASA-funded project. I will be making a catalogue and characterizing the weathering surfaces of Columbia River Basalts (volcanic igneous rocks with similar compositions to those on Mars) using the prototype goniometer at three different viewing geometries to test for backscattering and forward-scattering. After acquiring spectra, I will take their photos to add to the WWU online spectral database ( From there I will identify two rocks with similar spectra and characterize the mineralogical and topographical differences in their surfaces using an x-ray diffractometer (XRD), atomic force microscope (AFM) and a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Then I will look at their spectral differences to see how their mineralogy and topography affect their reflectance properties. My goal is to see if similar weathering surfaces, based on color, weathering textures, and sheen appear to have similar or variant spectra. This will help future researchers understand what the spectra of rocks on Mars can tell us about the rocks’ weathering histories. Ultimately, this work can be used as an indicator of whether rocks formed in environments with water, helping to discover the habitability of Mars.



Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Mars (Planet)--Geomorphology; Spectrum analysis--Research--Washington (State); Water-rock interaction--Washington (State)

Geographic Coverage

Washington (State)


student projects; term papers




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