What is the moon made of? What about Saturn, Jupiter and the ever-mysterious
Pluto? Planetary geologists study how these and other space bodies were formed.
By analyzing photos of planets, moons, asteroids and comets, planetary
geologists can begin to understand their history, climate and topography.
Some planetary geologists work with actual specimens gathered from space missions.
Most planetary geologists are professors at universities. They conduct
research and teach courses. Others work for government agencies such as NASA.
Still other planetary geologists work for private research institutions.
Planetary geologists can spend time working in their offices, in front
of computers and in space laboratories. The amount of time spent in each location
varies with the type of research being done.
"It varies from person to person," says Jeff Klemaszewski. He is a research
specialist in planetary geology at Arizona State University. "Some prefer
doing lab work and others do more computer processing."
The average workday can vary for planetary geologists. Those doing computer
processing or teaching at a university may work regular office hours. However,
deadlines during research missions may mean long hours.
"If you have a spacecraft approaching a moon to take images, your deadline
isn't flexible. These are intense times and the pace is demanding," says Klemaszewski.
Physical requirements can vary. Some planetary geologists travel to meetings.
Others exclusively do research and computer work. Eye strain and repetitive
strain injuries are dangers.