Planetary Geological Mapping and Planetary Analogues

In the framework of the School on Planetary Geological Mapping and Planetary Analogues (26 September to 8 October 2022, Pescara-Padova, Italy) the consortium of the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership GeoPlaNet-SP (ref. 2020-1-FR01-KA203-079773) organised three field trips focused on the diverse geological analogues of Mars that the Dolomites can offer (Breda et al., 2022).

Breda, A. et al. (2022) School on Geological Mapping and Field Analogues. Field Trip Guide, Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership GeoPlaNet-SP (ref. 2020-1-FR01-KA203-079773).

The Dolomites

Dolomites are widely renowned as a unique geological environment being characterised by well preserved Mesozoic atolls at 2000 m of elevation on average. This peculiar geological character together with the marvellous landscape made up of pale-colored crests and peaks, vertical cliffs, deep valleys and elevated plateaus, make them one of the most attractive mountain range in the world, worth to be inserted among the UNESCO World Heritage list (

What is probably less known is that their stratigraphic record of Permian age as well their Quaternary deposits shaped by the action of glaciers and gravity are marvellous examples of Martian analogues.

In particular the Val Gardena Sandstone, which followed an intensive volcanic event of Permian age, represents a semi-arid alluvial plain environment developed along the coast of the Pangaea supercontinent bathed by the east-west gulf branch of Paleo-Tethys ocean in the equatorial region. These Late Permian fluvial red beds are astonishingly similar to the sedimentary sequences found by the Curiosity in the Gale crater.

Westward transgression episodes from the Palaeo-Tethys seas triggered the accumulation of shallow marine evaporites (Bellerophon Formation), again a good analogue of sabkha environments on Mars.

For these reasons, since 2016 the Bletterbach gorge has been chosen as one of the field sites for Astronauts training in field geology by the ESA/PANGAEA course (