Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum
Processes of Science: Mars, a Case Study #6014 Blueberry Spherules
Date: September 6, 2012
Photographer: NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ USGS/Modesto Junior College
Small spherical objects fill the field in this mosaic that combines four images from the Microscopic Imager on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity. The view covers an area about 2.4 inches (6 centimeters) across, at an outcrop called “Kirkwood” in the Cape York segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The individual spherules are up to about one-eighth inch (3 millimeters) in diameter.
The Microscopic Imager took the component images during the 3,064th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars (Sept. 6, 2012).
Opportunity discovered spherules at its landing site more than eight-and-a-half years earlier. Those spherules were nicknamed “blueberries.” They provided important evidence about long-ago wet environmental conditions on Mars because researchers, using Opportunity’s science instruments, identified them as concretions rich in the mineral hematite deposited by water saturating the bedrock.
The spherules at Kirkwood do not have the iron-rich composition of the blueberries. They also differ in concentration, distribution, and structure. Some of the spherules in this image have been partially eroded away, revealing a concentric internal structure.
Opportunity’s science team used the rover for further investigation of these spherules to determine what evidence they can provide about ancient Martian environmental conditions. NASA launched the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity in the summer of 2003, and both completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004. They continued bonus, extended missions for years. Spirit finished communicating with Earth in March 2010. The rovers have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life.
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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.