I am interested in the geological study of the solid bodies in our solar system, from the planet Mars to the asteroids and Earth. I’m particularly interested in using remote sensing to characterize and understand planetary surface mineralogical and geochemical processes. I am interested in the mineralogy and geochemistry of the martian surface, and studying locations where remotely sensed data suggests that water-rock interactions occurred alluding to the presence of interesting surface processes and perhaps life. I am interested in the geological evolutionary history of our solar system, and how this history of changes can be constrained through the advancement of analytical techniques applied via remote sensing and laboratory experiments. I find I’m drawn to research in the nexus of geology, physics, and engineering, and the field of planetary science frequents this cross-over space.
Remote sensing of the martian surface
I am interested in synthesizing remotely sensed data collected by orbital instruments to understand the geological evolution of the martian crust and constraining mineralogical and morphological signatures of environments that could have supported life. I pursue this by using spacecraft observations from instruments such as the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) or the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) to constrain the geological context of outcrops bearing mineralogical clues to the past near-surface environments at these locations. More broadly, I apply remote sensing techniques to characterize planetary surface processes recorded in rocks exposed at the surface. This is quantitatively achieved via the integration of several orbital data sets, and through comparative planetology with the Earth.
Relevant publications and abstracts:
M. S. Bramble, J. F. Mustard, C. I. Fassett, and T. A. Goudge. 2018. Stratigraphy of the Northeast Syrtis Major Mars 2020 Landing Site and the Ejecta of Jezero Crater, Mars. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XLIX, abstract 1705 (abstract)
M. R. Salvatore, T. A. Goudge, M. S. Bramble, C. S. Edwards, J. L. Bandfield, E. S. Amador, J. F. Mustard, and P. R. Christensen. 2018. Bulk mineralogy of the NE Syrtis and Jezero crater regions of Mars derived through thermal infrared spectral analyses. Icarus 301, 76–96. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.09.019 (PDF)
Quantitative analytical techniques in the geological sciences
As with most of the physical sciences, the study of geology and planetary science requires the cutting edge of scientific instruments and applying these devices in novel methods to acquire data of the highest fidelity. I am interested continuing the development of applied instrumental techniques that increase the mathematical certainty in observations and perhaps lessens the degree of interpretation bias.
In particular, I’m interested in advancing thermal infrared spectroscopy as a tool for the mineralogical investigation of airless planetary surfaces. These surfaces are affected by a multitude of factors that are significantly different than the ambient laboratory, but, in particular, the vacuum environment sets up strong near-surface thermal gradients that significantly alter thermal infrared spectra. To accurately interpret thermal infrared data of airless bodies, it is necessary to first understand how the thermophysical properties of planetary materials affect emissivity spectra under cold, vacuum conditions in a controlled laboratory setting. This is achieved through careful analysis of candidate planetary materials in chambers mimicking the environment of airless planetary surfaces. I’m working on advancing our ability to increase the spectral precision and radiometric accuracy of remotely sensed thermal infrared data, and our ability to interpret the mineralogy and geochemical history of a surface from these spectra.
The next step after quantitative measurement in my mind is to solidify the relationships interpreted from the data by modeling the data to show the degree of certainty that may be attached to interpretations. With this mindset, I’m developing radiative transfer and thermal gradient models to aid the quantitative analysis of thermal infrared spectroscopy.
Relevant publications and abstracts:
M. S. Bramble, W. R. Patterson III, R. E. Milliken, Y. Yang, K. L. Donaldson Hanna, and J. F. Mustard. 2018. Radiometric Calibration of Thermal Emission Data from the Asteroid and Lunar Environment Chamber (ALEC). Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XLIX, abstract 1598 (abstract, poster)
M. S. Bramble, R. L. Flemming, and P. J. A. McCausland. 2015. Grain size measurement from two-dimensional micro-X-ray diffraction: Laboratory application of a radial integration technique. American Mineralogist 100, 1899–1911. doi:10.2138/am-2015-5181
M. S. Bramble, R. L. Flemming, J. L. Hutter, M. M. Battler, G. R. Osinski, and N. R. Banerjee. 2014. A temperature-controlled sample stage for in situ micro-X-ray diffraction: Application to Mars analog mirabilite-bearing perennial cold spring precipitate mineralogy. American Mineralogist 99, 943-947. doi:10.2138/am.2014.4629
M. S. Bramble, R. L. Flemming, and P. J. A. McCausland. 2014. Grain Size, ‘Spotty’ XRD Rings, and CheMin: Two-Dimensional X-ray Diffraction as a Proxy for Grain Size Measurement in Planetary Materials. Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XLV, abstract No. 1658 (abstract, poster)
Meteorites and early solar system processes
Meteorites provide a tangible way to study other planetary bodies and processes in the early solar system. Meteorites also allow for the study of astromaterials using the current level of laboratory technology providing data of higher resolution and fidelity than can be achieved by some spacecraft and remote sensing techniques. I am interested in studying processes in meteorites that can tell us about mineralogical interactions in the early solar system.
Relevant publications and abstracts:
P. J. A. McCausland, M. S. Bramble, P. G. Brown, J. U. Umoh, and D. W. Holdsworth. 2016. Many meteorites in one: Spatial scale and range of variation in bulk physical and lithological properties of the Tagish Lake C2 chondrite. GAC-MAC Annual Meeting, abstract No. 166 (abstract)
M. S. Bramble, P. J. A. McCausland, R. L. Flemming, and M. R. M. Izawa. 2014. Micro-X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy investigation of enigmatic dun-coloured veins in the Tagish Lake carbonaceous chondrite. GAC-MAC Annual Meeting, abstract No. 263 (abstract, poster)
Research in the media
- Ancient Mars had right conditions for underground life, new research suggests by Kevin Stacey, Brown University, 24 September 2018
- The Best Map Yet of What Could Be NASA’s Next Mars Landing Site by Robbie Gonzalez, WIRED, 26 April 2017
- Researchers produce detailed map of potential Mars rover landing site by Kevin Stacey, Brown University, 20 April 2017
- Scientists narrow list of landing sites for NASA’s next Mars rover by Stephen Clark, Spaceflight Now, 13 February 2017
- Brown researchers pitch landing sites for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission by Kevin Stacey, Brown University, 7 February 2017
- LPSC 2016: Martian Geomorphology by Tanya Harrison, The Planetary Society, 4 April 2016
- Brown’s new VR display aids scientific, artistic exploration by Kevin Stacey, Brown University, 1 December 2015
- Favorite Astro Plots #2: Condensation of the solar system by Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society, 14 October 2015