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Geology - How Things Happen

Much of Earth's history is written on its surface. Mountains, deserts, forests and plains tell the story of our planet's past--how it was formed and how it has changed over the past four billion years. Its surface also tells us about our present and future, such as the location of natural resources, the occurrence of earthquakes and the changes humans cause with their buildings and industries.


This image shows Spain's Pyrenees Mountains, taken by ASTER. Snow is blue; vegetation is green; rocks are pink and dark blue; clouds are white.
Using instruments aboard airplanes and satellites to peer down at our planet, JPL scientists are helping to decode the mysteries of Earth's origin, composition, structure and history. They also apply what they know about Earth to improving our knowledge of other planets.

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Missions & Research:

Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission Reflection Radiometer (ASTER)
   ASTER, an imaging instrument flying aboard the Terra satellite, acquires basic information about the composition and distribution of materials on Earth's surface. It also helps identify new mineral and fossil fuel deposits in poorly explored regions, monitors land use and land cover and provides information on agricultural and urban development.
Southern California Integrated Global Positioning Satellite Network (SCIGN) Southern California Integrated Global Positioning Satellite Network (SCIGN)
   JPL is a partner in this Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) network. Using signals emitted from this group of satellites, ground receivers measure and record very small surface motions, which typically result from movements along earthquake faults or liquid underground.
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM)
   On a 11-day flight aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in February 2000, SRTM acquired enough data to obtain the most complete near-global mapping of our planet's topography to date.
International Global Positioning System Service for Geodynamics International Global Positioning System Service for Geodynamics
   A constellation of satellites known as the Global Positioning System (GPS) plays a major role in regional and global studies of Earth. The organization provides tracking information and related data.
Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS)
   An optical sensing instrument that flies aboard a NASA science research plane, AVIRIS provides information about Earth's surface and atmosphere.
Crustal Deformation Studies Using SAR Interferometry Crustal Deformation Studies Using SAR Interferometry
   This project studies how earthquake fault lines affect the land surface.
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