Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another Martian Cave: Discovered by Seventh Graders

"7th-Graders Discover Mysterious Cave on Mars"
Space.com (June 21, 2010)

"A group of seventh-graders in California has discovered a mysterious cave on Mars as part of a research project to study images taken by a NASA spacecraft orbiting the red planet.

"The 16 students from teacher Dennis Mitchell's 7th-grade science class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., found what looks to be a Martian skylight — a hole in the roof of a cave on Mars.

"The intrepid students were participating in the Mars Student Imaging Program at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University. The program allows students to frame a research question and then commission a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image to answer their question...."

(from NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU, via Space.com, sued w/o permission)
"California 7th graders discovered this Martian pit feature at the center of the superimposed red square in this image while participating in a program that enables students to use the camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. The feature, on the slope of an equatorial volcano named Pavonis Mons, appears to be a skylight in an underground lava tube"

The working assumption now is that the Martian 'skylight' is in the top of a lava tube: the sort of feature we see in places like Hawaii, where there's a volcano nearby.

That pit is a new discovery, but it isn't the first of its kind: there's another, spotted earlier, on Pavonis Mons.

Still, it's an uncommon feature - and one that may give us a look 'inside' Mars. Back to the article:

"...The students have submitted their site to be further imaged by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which could reveal enough detail to see inside the hole in the ground...."

I remember being in seventh grade - and we weren't doing class projects with NASA then, or asking a robot spaceship to take another picture of something we'd found. On Mars.

This is an exciting time to be living in.

Related posts:
Other posts, about "Mars, Mostly."

Related posts, at

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