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Mars Education NASA Space

7th Graders Find Large Cave On Mars 139

Posted by timothy
from the ok-now-rhyme-something-with-uranus dept.
A newly discovered cave on Mars was found as the result of an interesting crowdsourcing project. As EMB Numbers writes, "CNET news reports that 'the science class from Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., found the opening while working on a research project with the Mars Space Flight Facility run out of Arizona State University in Tempe. ... The students examined more than 200 images of Mars taken with the Thermal Emission Imaging System (Themis), an instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.' The only other similar opening near the volcano was found in 2007, when Glen Cushing, a scientist with the US Geological Survey, published a research paper on the surface anomalies. The opening is estimated to be 620 by 520 feet and the hole to be at least 380 feet deep."
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7th Graders Find Large Cave On Mars

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  • Just kidding, folks. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clone53421 (1310749) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @03:56PM (#32669674) Journal

    I looked at the pictures, and it seems that they had a bug on the lens.

    In all seriousness, though, I wonder how they can determine the depth of the hole, just from the surface characteristics?

    • by mea37 (1201159) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @03:58PM (#32669704)

      They say "at least"; I'd take that to mean "if it was any less deep than that, we'd see some trace of the bottom".

      • by Dishevel (1105119) *
        I would think that by using the image to get the angle of the sun striking the surface of Mars that they could say that if it was any shallower than that the light from the sun would illuminate part of the bottom of the cave. Therefore since they see no bottom it must be deeper than the minimum.
        • They were using thermal imaging, not visible light.

          • by TinBromide (921574) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @05:16PM (#32670988)

            They were using thermal imaging, not visible light.

            ok, to revise then:

            I would think that by using the image to get the angle of the sun striking the surface of Mars that they could say that if it was any shallower than that the light from the sun would Heat Up part of the bottom of the cave. Therefore since they see no heat from the bottom it must be deeper than the minimum.

            Happy, mister snippy pants?

          • by ultranova (717540)

            Infrared radiation follows the same rules as visible light, being just another part of electromagnetic spectrum. The grandparent's logic still holds.

    • by PotatoFarmer (1250696) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @03:59PM (#32669734)
      Well, if you look carefully, you can see two vaguely hand-shaped rock formations to either side of the cave. Scientists have used this information to search for similar images for the purpose of comparison, and have thus come to the conclusion that the cave is approximately "ohgodmyeyes" deep.
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      In all seriousness, though, I wonder how they can determine the depth of the hole, just from the surface characteristics?

      Trigonometry?

      • Did you see the original image [asu.edu]? The hole is about 9x11 pixels square. That’s a pretty rough guess, if it’s what they’re working off.

        • Presumably they used one of the other dozen or so scientific instruments in orbit around mars to examine the site. The image they showed us on the site was just the one the 7th graders were examining when they found the cave.

    • by CTalkobt (81900)

      I looked at the pictures, and it seems that they had a bug on the lens.

      In all seriousness, though, I wonder how they can determine the depth of the hole, just from the surface characteristics?

      Simple (somewhat) ... take two pictures at different times of the day. See how much the shadow / dark spot changes of the walls. Assuming vertical (or nearly so) walls then it's (somewhat) a math problem...

      • Assuming vertical wall, you won’t be able to see them. You’re looking down.

        Plus, the camera is using thermal imaging, so a moving shadow wouldn’t show up well.

        • by CTalkobt (81900)

          Assuming vertical wall, you won’t be able to see them. You’re looking down.

          Plus, the camera is using thermal imaging, so a moving shadow wouldn’t show up well.

          With any spheroid looking down unless you're directly beneath the camera there will be angled views.

          As for thermal imaging - overlooked that part...

          • True, but I still am betting that the window of opportunity to get the right angle would simply be too small.

    • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:51PM (#32670620)

      Why do they call a vertical hole a cave?
      Don't caves typically have roof/ceilings?
      Its just a hole, lava vent.

      • by Trogre (513942)

        From TFA, what they've found is a hole in what is believed to be the roof of a hollowed out lava tube, ie cave.

        Appropriately, the image in the article is names skylight1.jpg.

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        For a second there, I thought you were saying 'Don't caves typically have drawings?'

    • by Teun (17872) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:54PM (#32670662) Homepage
      Easy, you know the distance and the angle of the lens so you can calculate the diameter.

      You also know the angle of the sun at the time of the photo and measure the lit (or unlit) area below the hole, that'll give you an approximation of the depth.

      • You also know the angle of the sun at the time of the photo and measure the lit (or unlit) area below the hole

        Check the photo, it’s a featureless black splotch. I posted a couple of links up above.

    • by Pikoro (844299)
      If you look to the upper right of the skylight, you can see numerous depressions indicating a collapsed lava tube. This new hole is directly in line with the previous collapsed sections. Using the depth of the collapsed section could give an insight as to the depth of the hole.
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @03:57PM (#32669684)
    The opening is estimated to be 620 feet by 520 feet and the hole to be at least 380 feet deep. Wow! That beats even goatse!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CTalkobt (81900)

      The opening is estimated to be 620 feet by 520 feet and the hole to be at least 380 feet deep. Wow! That beats even goatse!

      I'm sure you'll be moderated funny (as you should) ... however if you reach 5 then I'll know others, too - have suffered the same horrible fate I once did. It'll help heal the mental scars I still carry to this day...

    • by Sentrion (964745)

      Wow! That beats even goatse!

      Parents should teach their kids to keep their THEMIS away from such things. Most 7th graders are just beginning to understand their instruments at that age.

    • The opening is estimated to be 620 feet by 520 feet and the hole to be at least 380 feet deep. Wow! That beats even goatse!

      So what are the dimensions on goatse?

  • by nopainogain (1091795) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @03:58PM (#32669716)
    when i was in 7th grade my parents wouldnt even let me go to the pool by myself.. these kids today...with their ipods, their myspaces, and their spelunking visits to mars.. No Seriously, good job.
  • Apparently they want a closer look:

    The students have submitted their site as a candidate for imaging by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. HiRISE can image the surface at about 30 centimeters (12 inches) per pixel, which may allow a look inside the hole in the ground.

    With a resolution of 0.3 meters... I hope they share their results if they are able to get the site imaged.

  • by GreenSquirrel2 (1814454) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:01PM (#32669790)
    Kuato hid the oxygen generator?
  • by RabidMonkey (30447) <canadaboy.gmail@com> on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:04PM (#32669842) Homepage

    When I was in grade 7 we learned about nothing even remotely as interesting as this. I think we looked at plant cells under a microscope.

    It is pretty amazing that students can work with data like this, with computers and tools that enable it. Makes me wish I could go back to school and work on some of the stuff they teach in basic courses, particularly in high school.

    Kids these days! (are damned lucky!)

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Some people would think that looking at cells under a microscope is more interesting than geological formations. Are these caves significantly different from those found on earth?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Tekfactory (937086)

        If you read TFA, the kids were trying to find Lava Tubes around Pavonis Mons, a volcano on Mars.

        It seems to me that the forces of vulcanism, pushing up lava with only 1/3 gravity MIGHT cause them to form differently from those on Earth, which is why Olympus Mons is much taller than any volcano here.

        There is a cave found recently in Mexico with Crystal formations unlike anything ever seen before, outside of that I don't know how much interesting stuff there still is in caves on Earth.

        I've been to Mammoth Cav

      • by hakey (1227664)

        Some people would think that looking at cells under a microscope is more interesting than geological formations. Are these caves significantly different from those found on earth?

        Are those cells your looking at significantly different from those found on Mars?

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I kinda suspect that this is a function of the teacher's willingness to reach out to the university and actively participate in the science than it is any kind of sign of the times.

      I would wager that most 7th grade classes still look at the cells in an onion skin or whatnot.

      I further wager that 25 years ago there was a 7th grade science class designing experiments for the STS-51 (Challenger) flight, just no /. to report on it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cusco (717999)
      Depends on where you are. If you're in Benton Harbor, MI, (unemployment rate >70%, poverty rate >55%) you're learning how to keep the teacher from being robbed at knife point in the middle of class. If you're in Gross Point Shores, MI, you get to go on field trips to the Smithsonian and Cape Kennedy. This system of funding schools from property taxes is ridiculous.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        Wait, we are supposed to give more money to schools where teachers are getting robbed at knifepoint? That doesn't seem like a great investment to me...

        • by cusco (717999)
          No troll, I guess you're right. Educating poor people will just make them want to work at Goldman Sachs or AIG. Best to just let the rich kids have those kind of opportunities.
      • The border between local and state/national government is a fine one to tread. On one side you have local control over services and disparity between the more and less affluent areas, on the other you have evenly distributed resources and the problems that a central beaurocracy can bring. That is merely on observation, but personally I feel that the curriculum isn't the only thing that should be nationalised.
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @08:27PM (#32672580) Homepage Journal
      When I was in high school, there was a class called Space Tech. It was a combination shop and science class. We built our own telescopes, learned about the inverse square law, how to calculate the age of the universe, build a container for instruments that were supposed to withstand heat and cold, and used image processing programs to look for unusual geological features on images of the planets.

      The final was a shuttle simulation. The class was broken into teams. One team build robotic arms to perform actions in space, another was the crew that spent the night in an old room converted to a shuttle simulation, and a few other teams I can't remember. I was on the media team, and it was our job to talk to the different crews and make press releases. We released them on K12 newgroups. Back in 1994, this was really awesome, and I had no idea what we were doing. Little did we know, the teacher had some students from another of his classes send us an email claiming to be from the FAA advising us to take our vehicle out of airspace, or something to that effect. It was 1994, I had no internet savvy -- this was before spam and everything -- so I took it to the teacher. He laughed.

      It was a great class. Go Mr. Donelson at Gahanna Lincoln!
    • by nametaken (610866) *

      I think my parents said the same thing about me. Now I think I'll go pick up some non-credit classes at the local community college. ;)

    • What exactly stops you from doing this right now? Except for socially conditioned pointless embarrassment? :)
      Really. Go live the life of your dreams. People find other people more attractive if they are independent, anyway. :)

  • More pics (Score:5, Funny)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:05PM (#32669862)
    Here's a high-res picture of the cave interior [fxsaver.info]
  • Looks like someone was Soldering and started just NorthEast of this "cave".

    Although the "Cave" looks like a "Hole" to me, still cover it with a UV filtering Geodesic Dome, pressurize it and I know where to drop the first colony.

    Having some of that Water Ice, and CO2 Ice nearby wouldn't hurt either.

    • Having some of that Water Ice, and CO2 Ice nearby wouldn't hurt either.

      See I grew in south jersey, where they borrow slang from philadelphia and I always wondered why people were so interested in italian water ice [wikipedia.org] or, as we called it, "water ice". I mean its nice on a summer day, but there's more to life than frozen flavored water.

  • The landfill pit is already dug for them.
    • You kid, but NASA had plans for inhabiting Lava Tubes on the Moon, to shield astronauts from Radiation, you'd think Lava tubes on Mars would offer similar protection.

      • by ceejayoz (567949)

        Plus, you just cap the hole with a dome and you've got a nice, pressurisable habitat with a skylight.

  • ...until students start taking field trips to other planets, as seen on Spaceship Earth in Epcot Center.

  • What's the difference between a cave and a hole? This looks like a hole to me.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:21PM (#32670100) Homepage

    In my day, a fieldtrip consisted of nothing more than going outside -- in a field. The only caves we saw were the ones we had school in, and those were shared with the grizzly bears. If you've never seen your best friend's head get popped like a grape in the jaws of a grizzly, you've got it easy. It wasn't all bad though. Whenever we got a new transfer student, we'd convince them to yell into the cave really loud to "scare away the bats." Man, that was hilarious.

    Anyway, yeah.. Mars.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      You had field trips?
    • > In my day, a fieldtrip consisted of nothing more than going outside -- in a field.

      You were lucky to have a field. We weren't allowed outside... /cue Monty Python skit...

  • University students in Arizona are out kicking themselves in the butt for not seeing something that even 7th graders could find. One gold star next to the 7th graders on chart. One black eye for university students. And some say that legalizing pot will be a good thing.
  • ... and perhaps you can see Commander Draper and Friday in there.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @04:34PM (#32670326)

    Opposite side of the planet as the face on Mars.

  • 'Daddy, can we roll the Lander into the cave? Read fast?'

    'But Will-- Dr. Robinson is standing in the entrance!'

  • Just looking at the pictures one can plainly see a string of sharp edged depressions (or pits) having a shadow on the left rim. The circled area of this image is simply another one of those depressions which happens to be slightly smaller in diameter than the width of the shadow. It is therefore obvious that this is just another one of those depressions. In order to be a cave it would need to travel UNDERNEATH the ground.

  • by ATestR (1060586) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:05PM (#32671486) Homepage

    Are You Smarter Than A 7th Grader?

  • Cannon (Score:5, Informative)

    by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:25PM (#32671618)

    That's no cave. That's the opening to the underground cannon the Martians used to fire their invasion cylinders at Earth during the opposition of the last years of the 19th century.

  • by thomst (1640045) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:52PM (#32671830) Homepage
    Holey Marscape, Batman!
  • by thomst (1640045) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @06:55PM (#32671854) Homepage

    Y'know what I find frustratingly unfair about virtually ALL Internet comment-posting systems?

    They all have a "submit" button, but there's never a "dominate" button ...

  • I live near Cottonwood, and I never suspected they taught anything beyond logging, ranching and truck driving.

    Great job, kids. I really have to reconsider Tehama County schools.

    Wow.

    • by weav (158099)

      Ahem. That's SHASTA County schools. Unless they're on the wrong side of Cottonwood Creek.

      -- old Redding boy

      • by weav (158099)

        Actually I retract that correction. Evergreen is indeed on the wrong side of the creek. Shasta Co. has some catching up to do, clearly...

  • One of them hopefully knows something about web design and can do better than this [k12.ca.us]
  • The secret Martian cave from which I was going to launch my plot to take over the Earth has been discovered! My plans are foiled! And I would have gotten away with it, if not for these meddling kids!

  • is clearly that Miss Frizzel and her magic school bus.
  • It means we can live in caves on the Mars. http://www.healthproductreviewers.com/force-factor-review.html [healthprod...iewers.com]
  • It's one of those launching pads for flying sourcers. They just forgot to put a cover on this one, or perhaps the capping mechanism jammed.

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