Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum
Processes of Science: Mars, a Case Study #6012 Carbonate-Containing Martian Rocks
Date: December 11, 2005
Photographer: NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University
Lengthy detective work with data NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, collected in late 2005, confirmed that an outcrop called “Comanche” contains a mineral. This indicates that a past environment was wet and non-acidic, possibly favorable to life.
Spirit used its Panoramic Camera to capture this view of the Comanche outcrop during the 689th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (Dec. 11, 2005). The rover’s Moessbauer spectrometer, miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and alpha particle X-ray spectrometer each examined targets on Comanche that month. On June 3, 2010, scientists, using data from all three spectrometers, reported that about one-fourth of the composition of Comanche is magnesium iron carbonate. That concentration is 10 times higher than for any previously identified carbonate in a Martian rock.
Carbonates originate in wet, near-neutral conditions but dissolve in acid. The find at Comanche is the first unambiguous evidence from either Spirit or its twin, Opportunity, for a past Martian environment that may have been more favorable to life than the wet but acidic conditions indicated by the rovers’ earlier finds.
In this image, Comanche is the dark reddish mound above the center of the view. The image is presented in false color, which makes some differences between materials easier to see. It combines three separate exposures taken through filters admitting wavelengths of 750 nanometers, 530 nanometers and 430 nanometers. The main Comanche outcrop is about 5 meters (16 feet) from left to right from this perspective.
The paler material visible at bottom right is part of another outcrop, “Algonquin.”
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Supplementary: Essential Lens: Processes of Science - Mars, a Case Study
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Program 1 A Closer Look (video)
This introduction to the course models the process of analyzing photographs with teachers and students. Photography historian Makeda Best discusses the Focus In method with teachers, and educator Julie Keefe employs the method with students at a photography exhibit on "light and dark." Photography curator at the Portland Art Museum, Julia Dolan discusses how she carefully selects a set of photographs to tell a larger story.
Program 2 Witness (video)
Photographs bear witness to world events and help us to learn more about people, places, and situations -- historical and present day. Middle school teacher Donald Rose guides students in analyzing photos from school integration movements of the 1960s. Documentary film producer Ken Burns weaves photographs into historical narratives to bring the past to life. Photojournalist Louie Palu's photos take us deep into mines and war zones, and engage us with the individuals who take on those tasks.
Program 3 Lives (video)
Lives explores the story of human resilience and perseverance. Middle school teacher Donald Rose uses the Migrant Mother photos by Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange to help students understand what elements a photographer chooses to focus on to create the greatest impact. Historian Linda Gordon, biographer of FSA photographer Dorothea Lange reveals Lange's role in engaging Americans in the plight of those who were most devastated. New Orleans documentary photographers Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick talk about the transformation of their photographs after Hurricane Katrina and working with young photographers to preserve the city's cultural heritage.
video 4 Evidence (video)
An image can show us otherwise invisible processes, previously undiscovered life forms, and dramatic change over time. High school teacher Rima Givot engages her students with highly magnified photos of mouse muscle to study genetically modified organisms. Scientist and photomicrographer Dennis Kunkel demonstrates the fascinating process of creating photographs of the microscopic world. Environmental photographer Gary Braasch reports on his worldwide travels to document the state of the planet through repeat photography.
Program 5 Story (video)
Every photograph tells a story: of struggle, of beauty, of community and culture. Social studies teacher Kim Kanof uses photos from the Protests and Politics collection to teach about protests around in the world in 1968. National Geographic photo editor Pamela Chen details the collaborative process of creating photo-based feature stories with design director David Whitmore. Iowa photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier discusses his work documenting the residents and images of marginalized communities across the United States.