Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum
Processes of Science: Mars, a Case Study #6029 Hubble’s Sharpest View of Mars
Date: March 10, 1997
Photographer: NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
Source: David Crisp and the WFPC2 Science Team/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology
The sharpest view of Mars ever taken from Earth was obtained by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This stunning portrait was taken with the HST Wide Field Planetary Camera-2 (WFPC2) on March 10, 1997, just before Mars opposition, when the red planet made one of its closest passes to the Earth (about 60 million miles or 100 million km).
The Martian north pole is at the top (near the center of the bright polar cap). The center of the disk is at about 23 degrees north latitude, and the central longitude is near 305 degrees.
This view of Mars was taken on the last day of Martian spring in the northern hemisphere (just before summer solstice). It clearly shows familiar bright and dark markings known to astronomers for more than a century. The annual north polar carbon dioxide frost (dry ice) cap is rapidly sublimating (evaporating from solid to gas), revealing the much smaller permanent water ice cap, along with a few nearby detached regions of surface frost. The receding polar cap also reveals the dark, circular sea of sand dunes that surrounds the north pole (Olympia Planitia).
Other prominent features in this hemisphere include Syrtis Major Planitia, the large dark feature seen just below the center of the disk. The giant impact basin Hellas (near the bottom of the disk) is shrouded in bright water ice clouds. Water ice clouds also cover several great volcanos in the Elysium region near the eastern edge of the planet (right). A diffuse water ice haze covers much of the Martian equatorial region as well.
The WFPC2 was used to monitor dust storm activity to support the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter Missions. Airborne dust is most easily seen in WFPC2’s red and near-infrared images. Hubble’s “weather report” from these images in invaluable for Mars Pathfinder. Fortunately, these images show no evidence for large-scale dust storm activity, which plagued a previous Mars mission in the early 1970s.
The WFPC2 was used to observe Mars in nine different colors, spanning the ultraviolet to the near infrared. The specific colors were chosen to clearly discriminate between airborne dust, ice clouds, and prominent Martian surface features.
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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.