Saturday, June 26, 2010
Imagine if everyone on the planet cared about science, knew about science, helped figure out new things, and partook in advancing humanity. A dream? Maybe.
This week, a lucky group of 7th graders did just that! They found a formerly unknown cave on Mars! On MARS! That’s right, a group of 13 yr olds working on a science project at Evergreen Middle School, located in Cottonwood, CA, made this really cool discovery. They got this opportunity thanks to an amazing program called the Mars Student Imaging Program (MSIP). The program allows kids to come up with an interesting geological question about the red planet, and try and answer it. Their science teacher Dennis Mitchell said "The students developed a research project focused on finding the most common locations of lava tubes on Mars." With their question in mind, the kids looked through over 200 pictures taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging system (THEMIS) aboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter. They then selected a target location, and got to command the imaging system themselves to take pictures of the Pavonis Mons volcano and surrounding area.
According to Glen Cushing, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist "This pit is certainly new to us, and it is only the second one known to be associated with Pavonis Mons." Apparently the spot appears clear against the background surface of Pavonis Mons "It sticks out like a sore thumb in THEMIS predawn thermal observations." He estimated its size as roughly 620x520 ft wide and 380 ft deep.
In light of their successful findings, the kids have submitted their site as a candidate for Hi-Res imaging by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Now I don’t know about you, but I was a total space nut when I was a kid – I still am. Back then where I grew up, that was unheard of. I must say I am quite envious of these kids for having these incredible opportunities, resources, and encouragement. This is really great. Maybe we are moving in the right direction as far as communicating, and opening the door to science for everyone. Mitchell added "The Mars Student Imaging Program is certainly one of the greatest educational programs ever developed. It gives the students a good understanding of the way research is conducted and how that research can be important for the scientific community. This has been a wonderful experience." Yup, I completely agree with this sentiment.
There is so much wonder in the universe, I can’t wait to explore more of it. There’s plenty to go around, discoveries waiting to be made, new races waiting to be found. It’s always an exciting day in the science world. Come join in the fun!
Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP) - Link pops
Thermal Emissions Imaging System (THEMIS) – Link pops
High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) - Link pops
Mars Odyssey Orbiter - Link pops