Adrian Brown, SETI Institute

+ Current Research

I am currently employed at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, near San Jose in the South San Francisco Bay area of California. I work as a research scientist investigating Mars, particularly the dynamic polar regions, which are covered in seasonal ice frosts. I am currently constructing seasonal maps of water and carbon dioxide ice and gas abundance in the polar regions.

I just completed a NASA Postdoctoral Program at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field.

Prior to my Postdoc, I completed my PhD in planetary sciences at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at Macquarie University in Sydney, NSW.



During my Postdoc studies, I worked at the SETI Institute with Dr. Janice Bishop, who is a co-invesitgator on the Compact Reconnaissance Infrared Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). This instrument is currently onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO or Mister Oh). It arrived at Mars in March 2006 and after a six month aerobraking phase, it was turned in November 2006 and has been mapping at Mars ever since. My CRISM releated research page is here.

Mars Water and the Mars Polar Regions

As a part of the CRISM targeting team, I am assisted Dr. Rob Green from JPL with targeting Mars polar targets for CRISM. This involves picking out targets that CRISM will observe and then analysing the images that come back. The Mars Polar regions are an ever changing and fascinating region of the Solar System, where carbon dioxide and water ice interact at temperatures down to minus 180 degrees Celcius. It's unlikely any organisms live there, but CRISM will be looking for seasonal changes in mineralogy and tracking the movement of water and carbon dioxide ices from the surface and into the atmosphere in order to understand how water ice on Mars behaves on that planet today.


I've started work on a spectral analysis program that will be used to analyse the CRISM data as it comes back to Earth. It is called MR PRISM, and will eventually be made public. Stand by for future announcements.

Hyperspectral Remote Sensing

My PhD work concentrated on using high resolution spectrometers (which record light in various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum) to look at the surface of the Earth. This work I am now continuing on Mars, where similar spectrometers are being used to probe the Martian surface.

Western Australia

My favourite place in the world is Western Australia, and several of my field sites are based there. Western Australia is home to only 2 million people, and yet covers almost half of Australia - about 3 times as large as Texas. Western Australia is also the oldest part of the Earth's surface - many regions data back 3.5 billion years, almost three quarters of the Earth's history. It's an amazing place.

Acidic Dry Lakes

Western Australia is an arid place, home to many lakes which get wet during winter and dry out for long periods of time. Many of these lakes are acidic - with pH levels of 4 or less. This makes them inhospitable places - but could make them the closest thing on Earth to a Martian environment - hence my interest.

Sulfate minerals

Sulfates have been detected in large abundances on Mars. On Earth, we often find sulfates in areas such as dry lake beds, where sulfate salts have built fragile crystals as water has evaporated.

Quantum Chemistry

I am using computer programs to solve the Schrodinger wave equation for sulfate structures in order to determine electron probability densities and bonds strengths, and eventually their vibrational spectra. With this information, it will be possible to link light absorptions with sulfates directly to the underlying causes of the absorption - molecular bonding within the minerals.

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+ Highlights

Click on the links below to
move to more on my research highlights...

»Mars Polar regions
»Western Australia
»Acidic Dry Lakes
»Sulfate minerals
»Quantum Chemistry

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