Research in planetary science can either focus on earth science, or the other solar system bodies.
Non-earth research activities include geomorphologic studies of surface processes, geologic mapping of the various planetary surfaces, remote sensing and spectroscopy, investigations of terrestrial analogs, and impact cratering processes and history.
Mars research is a current hot topic. Researchers are studying whether water is present under the surface, whether life once existed on Mars, and whether life can be supported there in the form of human colonies. Scientists combine field (mapping, surveying, ground penetrating radar) and remote-sensing techniques with lab based analytical techniques (eg. scanning electron microscopy, radiocarbon dating, luminescence, and isotope dating) and quantitative analyses (statistical characterizations, numerical modeling, and computer simulations).
Planetary scientists are currently collaborating with space scientists to discover and map extrasolar planets. This research is being used to help in understanding how the solar system was formed and how unique it is, both in geological composition and also in biology.
Another field of interest is that of creating photographic products for other users. This includes visual photographs, geologic maps, and mapping locations of interest such as prospective ores, petroleum, or underground water.