Mars Odyssey

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Mars Student Imaging Project

Ms. Best's Third Grade Class
Mesa Elementary School
Somis, California

Click here to read about the students' work prior to obtaining their data.

We made a PowerPoint project for NASA and it was accepted so we were the first third graders to do this NASA project.

Craters happen when stuff crashes on planets.  What do we know about craters?  We read books, articles by scientists, and participated in teleconferences with Arizona State University to learn about craters.  We studied a big crater in Arizona (Barringer Crater) and how it changes on Earth.  Craters' edges change over time because of winds and maybe water.  Ice melts and changes shape when the sun warms it up.  Our glaciers on Earth are always changing.

Image #1.  Credit: NASA/ASU/JPLSome scientists think the ice on Mars melts on top, and the water runs down to change ice shapes.  Other researchers think the ice might melt more under the surface ice and sink into the planet.  Can icecaps freeze and just stay the same?

Our question is... "WILL THERE BE CHANGES ON THE CRATER THAT OUR SATELLITE HAS BEEN FOCUSING ON?"  After noticing the edges of craters are different and can tell us what happened to them, we posed this question because it seemed very interesting.

We looked at many, many pictures on the THEMIS website for days - especially all the craters.  We searched for a crater edge visible with possible ice and shapes that would match both our pictures (target and reference image).  Then we finally found the picture we were looking for.  When we got the picture at first we thought the satellite would take a whole different picture.  We needed to know which orbits would be in daylight on our target and we only had a week and a half to choose our target from 12 orbits.

Image 1 was taken on July 3, 2004.  It is Image ID# V1131604.  Latitude 42.67N, Longitude 159.09E.  Image 2 is our image and was taken on/about February 3, 2006.  The Image ID# is V18367043.  Latitude 43.80N, Longitude 159.31E.The students used the JMARS software developed by Arizona State University ( to receive the orbital data from the Mars Space Flight Facility in order to search for their data.

We used the satellite (Mars Odyssey/THEMIS) to take a picture of Mars.

The name of the picture we took was of the Western Phelgra Montez.  We looked at our new crater "Believe."  We have to look carefully for changes and whatever differences we need to study.  We used rulers, pencils, and our minds to figure out the measurements of our crater.  We worked to see the length between the crater and we found the right edge, gully, dark spot, and a slope streak.  We worked hard on the pictures for a long time!

We measured the picture we took of Mars.  We measured in centimeters and millimeters.  First we had to remember how to use the ruler the right way!  It was hard and interesting to us.  Ms. Best showed us how to organize our measurements in a Table.  Then she showed us on the computer how to turn the Table into a Graph!  That was so Cool!!!








Length, top section




Left edge V




Right edge gully




Edge between dark spots, slope streak




Length, bottom edge crater




Center footprint, length




Large footprint, width




Edge near right bottom note, width



Here is the Excel graph of the data:

For our discussion, we had to write the answers to what we think the changes mean.  What could have happened?  The solar angle on the two pictures was a little different, so shadows could explain small differences.  We think we saw figures inside the crater edge shaped like footprints.  One was little – one was big.

But the footprint measurement was a big difference, so we think there was a big change on that part of the crater.

Probably some of the ice melted a little and sunk into the ice around it.  This made it "slump" from the edges of the footprint shape and look bigger now.  Now we have to see if our guess is right and answer our question.  Our question is if ice on the rim of the crater will change in a short period of time?  Our hypothesis is yes, we think that we can see changes in a rim of ice on a crater in a short period of time.  Our answer is that yes we can see changes in a rim of ice in two years.

The data that we collected supports our hypothesis very much because the center footprint seemed to get a lot bigger in the pictures.  The scientist who looked at our crater edge thinks the curved ridges "slumped" or fell down to change the shape.  It happened partly from gravity, and partly from water or ice mixed with rock shifting and moving.

Now other scientists can use our work to continue the study of ice, water, and craters on Mars and other planets.  Maybe they can check other crater rims they already took pictures of a few years ago and see if they can find the same changes we did.  Working as Scientists with NASA and Arizona State University was the most awesome school experience!

We Believe!!!

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- 31 May 2006


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Last Updated:
1 June 2006

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