Maria T. Zuber
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Election Year: 2004
Primary Section: 16, Geophysics
Secondary Section: 15, Geology
Membership Type: Member
My research addresses the structure and evolution of solid planetary bodies through combination of theory, observation and computation. In early work I modeled tectonic structures on planetary surfaces using viscoplastic instability theory to infer thermomechanical properties of shallow interiors and to estimate stress states. I analyzed rifts and folds on Venus, Earth and Mars to reconstruct interior thermal profiles and subsurface structure at the time of feature formation. Several broad collaborations later resulted in experiments to map the topography and gravity fields of the Moon, Mars and asteroid 433 Eros, and from the combined data sets we developed the first reliable global models of the internal structures of these bodies. Our work revealed the crustal structure beneath major lunar impact basins, and allowed us to show that the Moon cooled off more rapidly after accretion than had previously been thought. On Mars we demonstrated that the planet contained two crustal provinces that do not correlate with surface geology, and showed the origin of the prominent Tharsis rise to be a consequence of volcanic construction. For Eros we showed that the asteroid was characterized by a strikingly homogeneous interior and we mapped the thickness of the impact-generated regolith.