Teach the Earth > Discoveries from Mars > Catalyst Ideas > Rock compositions

Ideas for Integrating Mars Data into Undergraduate Courses: Rock Compositions

Determining nature of surface materials on Mars

  • Use THEMIS IR images of aeolian features to determine differences grain sizes and evaluate whether differences exist from place to place on Mars and whether Mars aeolian features have grain sizes similar to aeolian features on Earth (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology).
  • Use Klieg lights and a thermometer (or other way to measure thermal signature) to determine the relationship between grain size and thermal inertia. Use results to interpret the nature of surface materials on Mars as shown in THEMIS images (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, petrology, geomorphology).
  • Collect basalt samples with various characteristics (grain size, glass content, mineralogy, presence or absence of vesicles), use a jaw crusher to break each sample up, sieve samples to give a variety of grain sizes. Measure differences in color, albedo, thermal inertia, etc. and determine whether rock characteristics influence these values and need to be taken into consideration in remote sensing of Mars rocks (Suggested for: petrology, intro geology).

Determining the chemical/mineralogic composition of materials on Mars

  • Use THEMIS mineral maps for specific minerals, correlate minerals with surface features, and interpret the correlations. (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Do clays occur on Mars? How could clays be detected on Mars, what would we look for in remotely-sensed data? Do spectral data indicate clays on Mars, and what do comparisons of clay abundances on Earth vs. Mars suggest? (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Use mineral maps of Mars to address the question of rock types on Mars, including the uncertainties and the first order distributions on Mars. Compare with distribution of rock types on Earth. What do the differences suggest? What are the uncertainties? (Suggested for: petrology, intro geology).
  • Pick a place on Mars where THEMIS IR images suggest rocks rather than dust or sand, and examine as many image/data sources as possible to interpret the nature of those rocks (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, petrology intro geology).

Planning future missions

  • Use available image and spectral data from orbit to plan a future mission to Mars and predict what rock types and mineral compositions might be at the site (Suggested for: intro geology, petrology, sedimentary geology).
  • Use available image and spectral data from orbit to plan a future Mars base that would be able to utilize surface materials for resources (Suggested for: intro geology, petrology, sedimentary geology, engineering geology).