A Remote Sensing Perspective on Mass Wasting in Contrasting Planetary Environments: Cases of the Moon and Ceres

Lydia Sam, Anshuman Bhardwaj*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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Mass wasting, as one of the most significant geomorphological processes, contributes immensely to planetary landscape evolution. The frequency and diversity of mass wasting features on any planetary body also put engineering constraints on its robotic exploration. Mass wasting on other Solar System bodies shares similar, although not identical, morphological characteristics with its terrestrial counterpart, indicating a possible common nature for their formation. Thus, planetary bodies with contrasting environmental conditions might help reveal the effects of the atmosphere, subsurface fluids, mass accumulation/precipitation, and seismicity on mass wasting, and vice versa. Their relative positions within our Solar System and the environmental and geophysical conditions on the Moon and the dwarf planet Ceres are not only extremely different from Earth’s but from each other too. Their smaller sizes coupled with the availability of global-scale remote sensing datasets make them ideal candidates to understand mass wasting processes in widely contrasting planetary environments. Through this concept article, we highlight several recent advances in and prospects of using remote sensing datasets to reveal unprecedented details on lunar and Cerean mass wasting processes. We start with briefly discussing several recent studies on mass wasting using Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) data for the Moon and Dawn spacecraft data for Ceres. We further identify the prospects of available remote sensing data in advancing our understanding of mass wasting processes under reduced gravity and in a scant (or absent) atmosphere, and we conclude the article by suggesting future research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1049
Number of pages15
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

All the data sources have been credited in the respective figure captions. However, we thank ETH Zurich’s Research Collection, the United States Geological Survey, previous studies [2,27,30,61,62], and Arizona State University for providing the necessary datasets and tools, which we have used to generate various figures and maps in this study.


  • Ceres
  • Dawn spacecraft
  • Landscape evolution
  • Landslides
  • Luna
  • Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC)
  • Mass movement
  • Mass wasting
  • Planetary remote sensing
  • The Moon


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