36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 12 Prize Lectures
Invited, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 1:30-4:00pm, Lewis

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[12.01] Origin and Evolution of the Terrestrial Planets: Chapter 1

C. Pieters (Brown University)

The rocky terrestrial planets of our solar system exhibit enormous diversity. We now know some of the constraints that created this diversity and can focus our exploration efforts to explore dimensions related to each. The Moon, asteroids, and perhaps Mercury represent Chapter 1 of the story. These bodies carry the history of the formative first 600 My, but have remained relatively inactive as planets since. Mars, on the other hand, continued to evolve actively for a few billion years and represents Chapter 2, the middle years when fluvial and large-scale volcanic processes were active but then dissipated. The current recycling Martian deserts record this former heyday of long long ago. Chapter 3 is our Goldilocks group, Venus and Earth, which have the right balance of materials to continue to evolve as an active planet for over 4 billion years, although clearly in different directions. Other solar systems may have a 4th chapter of terrestrial planet evolution, or no terrestrial planets at all, so we would do well to extract all the information we can from the terrestrial planets to which we have access. I will examine the important Chapter 1 in more detail and leave the remaining Chapters to others. Chapter 1 represents the beginning. After all, if there were no Chapter 1, what is there?

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.