Initial Publication Date: May 11, 2006

Ideas for Integrating Mars Data into Undergraduate Courses: Sediments and Sedimentary Processes

Sedimentary environments on Mars

  • Use images of surface materials on Mars at the two MER landing sites to quantify sedimentary grain textures (grain size, shape, sorting), and compare with terrestrial analogs (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Examine features and scale of sedimentary layering on Mars at the two MER landing sites and compare with Earth analogs to evaluate the environment of deposition (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Compare the morphologies of aeolian vs. subaqueous dunes and ripples on Earth and use the criteria to evaluate the origin of asymmetric current bedforms on Mars (Suggested for: geomorphology, sedimentary geology, intro geology).

Aeolian features and processes on Mars

  • Determine dune types and inferred sand supply and wind directions from dune shapes in Mars images. Could be expanded to develop a data base of dune locations on Mars, spatial patterns, sizes of dunes, and inferred wind directions for regional comparison (Suggested for: sedimentary geology).
  • Use dust devil movies to determine distance traveled over time to calculate speed of dust devils. Compare the Mars dust devils with terrestrial dust devils(Suggested for: sedimentology, intro geology)
  • Use catalog of dust devils to calculate volumes of dust moved per dust devil and extrapolate to obtain global numbers. Use MOC images to compare with observed dust mantle thicknesses (Suggested for: sedimentary geology)
  • Evaluate the correlations between locations and orientations of dust devil streaks on Mars and local grain size (from THEMIS nighttime IR), surface features, topography, elevation, and wind directions(Suggested for: sedimentology, intro geology)
  • Evaluate whether Stokes Law is the most appropriate expression for determining dust settling times from the Martian atmosphere (Suggested for: sedimentary geology)
  • Compare wind streak patterns in images made at different times of the Martian surface to evaluate changes in wind direction (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Model development of wind streaks using obstacles, a fine powder, and a fan. Use results to interpret Mars wind streaks (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Use Greeley and Iversen's (1985) graph of wind velocity vs. distance above surface to explore differences in aeolian processes on Earth, Mars, and Venus (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Compare atmospheric circulation patterns on Mars with those on Earth; correlate with local wind directions on Mars determined from wind streaks and dune morphology (Suggested for: geomorphology, weather and climate, intro geology)
  • Compare Mars dunes made at different times to determine whether the features are active over the time scale of Viking to present. Compare with active dunes on Earth. (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, intro geology)
  • Use a simple wind tunnel to explore development of aeolian bedforms and wind streaks (sedimentary geology, intro)
  • Fine sand has collected on the platform of the Spirit Rover in the Columbia Hills. If we assume that this is saltation-derived, how high did the grains have to be carried and what might this tell us about wind speeds at the time? (Suggested for: sedimentary geology)

Hematite in Meridiani and other geochemical questions

  • Present alternative hypotheses for the origin(s) of hematite spherules at Meridiani and have students identify approaches to testing between the alternatives (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, geochemistry)
  • Compare features of the rocks on Mars containing blueberries, popcorn berries, and microberries and evaluate their distribution (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, geochemistry)
  • Compare features of hematite concretions on Earth with those on Mars and evaluate similarities and differences (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, geochemistry)
  • Have students read Christensen and Ruff's predictive paper on the setting for hematite in Meridiani and compare Opportunity results with the various predictions (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, geochemistry)
  • Given Mars mineralogies, can you balance the chemical elements (open vs. closed system); could use Geochem workbench programs and Hynek et al, 2005 paper (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, geochemistry)

Origin of layered rocks on Mars

  • Compare the features of layered rocks expected from modes of formation (aqueous sedimentation, aeolian sedimentation, volcanic eruption, impact or volcanic base surge) and compare with the features from a given area to test various origin hypotheses (Suggested for: sedimentary geology)

Landslides on Mars

  • Long landslides have formed on Mars. Investigate whether Mars' lower gravity affects the observed run-out distances and if not, why not. (Suggested for: geomorphology, intro geology)

Weathering on Mars

  • What is the evidence of weathering on Mars (use results from Rover arm instruments), and how similar or different is it to weathering on Earth? (Suggested for: sedimentary geology, geochemistry)