Antarctica as a Model for Other Worlds

WINGS Fellow Rosaly Lopes returned safely from her expedition to study Mount Erebus, home to one of the planet’s only lava lakes – a unique geological phenomenon found more commonly on Jupiter’s moon Io than Earth.  Lopes has studied Io extensively with her work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  Lopes spent one month on Mount Erebus, which is located on Antarctica, and is the southernmost active volcano on Earth.

Together with astronomical artist and science writer Michael Carroll, she is working on a book project that will use landscapes in Antarctica as a model to help envision what other planets look like.  The book will also feature accounts from Lopes and Carroll about what it was like to live and work on Antarctica.

Lopes and Carroll met all of their goals, which were to reach at least one ice cave on Mount Erebus, the Tower Ridge on the upper slopes of Erebus, and the summit of Erebus to photograph the crater and lava lakes.

Antarctica’s strict protections against human impact mean that, as an almost entirely untouched place, it’s ideal for scientists who want to study the Earth – and also highlights the need to continue to protect the continent.

“It’s a good example for exploration, and maybe we should follow that on many other places on Earth,” Lopes said.

To learn more about Lopes’ expedition, read her full flag report.

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