Solar System Planetary Interiors

Presented by Professor Graziella Caprarelli, International Research School of Planetary Sciences in Italy


In this talk Prof Caprarelli will discuss the planets of our solar system using a comparative planetology approach. Through the exploration of key concepts of planetary geophysics and cosmochemistry, she will present an analysis of the differences among the planets of our solar system, with Earth as the planet of reference. Firstly, she will show that in the solar system chemical elements are not uniformly distributed, which is why we have two groups of planets, the terrestrial planets, rocky and dense, and the Jovian planets, mostly gaseous or icy. She will then focus specifically on the solid spheres of the terrestrial planets: the Earth is formed by concentric layers surrounding a solid sphere, termed “the inner core”, principally composed of iron and nickel alloys.  This is surrounded by the “outer core”, characterised by fluid motion of the metal, which is the source of the geomagnetic field. Moving outward, there is the “mantle”, composed of simple structure silicate minerals, and the outermost layer is the crust, also composed of silicates, with more varied and complex structures. The other terrestrial planets have similar structure and similar material to Earth, but differences in size and distance from the Sun have led to different evolutionary histories. This is particularly evident in the planetary geological records: for most of its geological history, Earth has been dissipating the internal heat accumulated during its formation through the mechanism of “plate tectonics”, fundamentally driven by mantle convection. The other planets have experienced different geodynamic regimes, and are mostly “inactive” in terms of major volcanic or tectonic activity, although they have been active in the past and minor geological activity may still exist. 


Bio: Professor Graziella Caprarelli obtained a MS Summa cum Laude in Geological Sciences, followed by a PhD in Earth Sciences, from University "La Sapienza" of Rome (Italy). Subsequently she held Postdoctoral Fellowships at the Geological Survey of Japan, at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, at NASA Johnson Space Center (Houston), and at the International Research School of Planetary Sciences in Italy. In Australia she has worked as a tenured university academic for about 25 years, teaching subjects in mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry and planetary science. In 2018 she founded a science consulting company, Hypatia Scientifica Pty Ltd, of which she is sole Director and Principal Scientist. She is Honorary Associate at the University of Technology Sydney, holds an adjunct position as Research Professor at the International Research School of Planetary Sciences in Italy, serves as Senior Science Advisor for HEO Robotics, and volunteers in the meteorite collection at the Australian Museum (Sydney, NSW). Her area of scientific interest and research are volcanic processes on Earth and Mars. Her most recent Martian research focuses on the use of ground penetrating radar to explore the subsurface geology of Mars. Professor Caprarelli has held many positions as Chair or President of national and international learned and professional societies, and has been Associate Editor - Planetary Geoscience, for the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences since 2015. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists. 

Free – visitors welcome – booking not required

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Event info

Wednesday 07 Nov 2018

8:00 PM - 9:30 PM

Kerr Grant Theatre Level 2 Physics Building, University of Adelaide, North Tce



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