Did it Rain on Mars? Analysis of Valley Networks on Mars in an Intro Geo Course
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection
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This page first made public: May 10, 2006
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- analysis of data
- synthesis of data from a variety of sources
- critical evaluation of pre-existing hypothesis
- evaluation of uncertainties
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
One of the ways of deciding whether the Mars valley networks might have been produced by rainfall is to find out how similar they are to valley networks on Earth, which we know are produced by rainfall. The standard method for analyzing drainage basins is comparison of the number of drainage segments per square kilometer (drainage density) and how extensively branched the network is (stream order).
In this exercise, students calculate stream order for valley segments mapped by Hynek and Phillips (2003) using MOC/MOLA data. Students then use data on valley segment length and drainage basin area from Hynek and Phillips (2003) to calculate drainage density. They compare stream order and drainage density for the Mars site with similar calculations for areas on Earth and evaluate the question of whether valley networks on Mars might be consistent with rainfall on an early Mars, and what the uncertainties and limitations are in their conclusions.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment (Microsoft Word 3.7MB Apr27 06)
- Instructors Notes (Microsoft Word 777kB Apr27 06)
- Large format image for printing. (a 1951 by 3187 pixel JPEG)
Carr, M.H. and Chuang, F.C., 1997, Martian drainage densities: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 102, p. 9145-9152.
Hynek, Brian M. and Phillips, Roger J., 2003, New data reveal mature, integrated drainage systems on Mars indicative of past precipitation: Geology, v. 31, no. 9, p. 757-760.