Meeting Location and Dates
We are happy to announce the Brines Across the Solar System: Modern Brines conference scheduled for October 25–28, 2021. The conference is currently planned as an all-virtual event with an in-person option at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas depending on conditions at the time.
Series Purpose and Scope
The LPI’s Brines Across the Solar System (BAS) initiative dives into brines as a planetary process, from modern to ancient brines and the technologies needed to explore them. Salty aqueous solutions (i.e., brines) are prominent across diverse planetary bodies. They are observed in the gas plumes presently ejecting from Enceladus, reconstructed from precipitates on the surface of Ceres and Mars, and inferred from meteoritic samples. Understanding the mechanisms that led to the formation and preservation of these brine systems provides vital clues to their role in geological, geophysical, environmental, and biological processes. In this three-part conference series, we will address questions relating to the thermodynamics and physiochemistry of brines and their occurrence today and throughout time in our solar system and beyond.
In this topical conference, the first in the LPI’s BAS initiative, we will explore the environments where brines may presently exist, their potential habitability, and their role in ongoing and active planetary processes. We hope to address questions such as:
Where are brines presently available on planetary bodies and what are their physiochemical properties?
Both spacecraft and ground-based observations indicate the presence of brines across the solar system. In order to refine our understanding of these (meta)stable brines, we must first identify the key environmental parameters that can form and support them. Using results from laboratory experiments, analog studies, and numerical modeling, we can gain insights into the physiochemical properties of planetary brines (both deep and near-surface). This will allow us to resolve where such brines can feasibly form and persist, and given observational constraints, where else we may expect to find them.
How do brines interact with and alter their environment in observable ways?
The presence and transport of brines can play a variety of roles in shaping the surface and interior of a planetary body. Surface flow features, mineral alteration and precipitation, mechanical weakening, transport of heat and chemical compounds, ocean circulation, and even volcanic processes are all examples of planetary processes that can be influenced by brines. To characterize existing brine reservoirs and help identify new ones, we must first develop an understanding of how these fluids work to shape their environment and the processes that are characteristic of silicate-dominated, ice-dominated, and subsurface ocean environments.
Can brines support life or foster prebiotic conditions?
Although liquid water is a necessity for life as we know it, other factors such as appropriate salinity, chaotropicity, temperature, and availability of nutrients are needed. In this sense, brine environments pose both challenges and opportunities to life. To assess the habitability of planetary brines, we must determine possible energy resources (e.g., metabolites) they may harbor and the tolerances of known (poly)extremophiles to the expected brine physiochemistry. Constraining the chemistry of these brines, including the reactions they facilitate, also elucidates their potential to foster prebiotic chemistry.