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South Africa: Geologist Collaborates With Nasa to Investigate the Habitability of Jupiter Moon


In May 2018, Dr Matthew Mayne, a geologist in the Department of Earth Sciences at Stellenbosch University, received an email from a scientist at Nasa.

Dr Mohit Melwani Deswani from the Planetary Interiors and Geophysics research group at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California wanted to know whether Matthew Mayne could tailor software tool Rcrust to be more relevant to studying Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

Rcrust is a thermodynamic modelling software tool that Mayne originally developed to investigate the formation of the mineral compositions of rocks on Earth under different temperature and pressure conditions.

Mayne explains: “Earth is not a compositional mass; it has different chemical layers. An upper crust is divided into an oceanic and continental crust, with a chemically separate upper mantle, lower mantle, outer core and inner core. All of these are chemically differentiated from each other and they maintain this chemical differentiation.

“We know the chemical composition of the layers, but we don’t know how the layers interact with each other, how they chemically differentiated to form each other and how they maintain that chemical differentiation and do not homogenise.”

Rcrust can be used to investigate interactions between different rock layers and how they…

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