Mars for Earthlings > Lesson Modules > In-Class Activity 1- Mars Analogs

Mars Analogs

In-Class Activity 1- Mars Analogs

Julia Kahmann-Robinson PhD and Marjorie Chan PhD, University of Utah Department of Geology & Geophysics


Observe and rank potential Earth analogs for Mars planetary study.


1. Print off student exercise

2. Use .ppt image file for class


Intro to Mars Image File


What is an analog?

1. Discuss definitions students come up with for the term analog

2. Present a modern reptile "analog" to a dinosaur. Ask students to explain why this is an analog.


Present the following regions as potential analogs for Mars (via Intro to Mars Image File (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 47kB Oct8 13)):

· Atacama Desert

· Death Valley, CA

· John Day Formation, Oregon

· Southern Utah

· Antarctica

Ask students to consider the criterion by which they are deciding whether or not a region is a good analog. Discuss varying criteria as a class and determine the most appropriate definition of a good analog.


Have students investigate "vital statistics" of Mars via the internet (see Image File examples) such as: ambient temperature ranges, atmospheric composition, mineralogy, depositional environment, the absence of life, water, and geomorphic features.

Other example references:


As students discuss the various regions, have them provide the Earth data/statistics (similar to Mars) of these regions for comparison to Mars.


Rank their criterion for "best analog" by most to least important attribute

Example: (1-most important, 5-least important)

1. depositional environment

2. geomorphic features

3. type of and presence of water

4. ambient temperature range

5. mineralogy

6. type of life (extremophile or not)

7. atmospheric composition

Rank their analog sites by 1- best site, 5- most unlike Mars