STUDENT INSTRUCTION AND ANSWER
Activity 6: Do We See the
Signs of Life on Mars?
Examine the following image:
A. In this false color image of the planet Mars, what kind of information is being displayed?
B. What is the range in values of the data?
C. What colors suggest that ice might be located on the surface of Mars and in what region of the planet is it likely to be found?
D. Does the data provided in this image suggest that life could exist on Mars? Explain your reasoning.
The following set of NASA Hubble Space Telescope images of the Martian surface includes a true color image shown on the left and a false color image shown on the right. This true color image shows what Mars would look like to the human eye. The yellowish-pink color of the northern polar cap indicates the presence of small iron-bearing dust particles. These particles are covering or are suspended in the air above the blue-white water ice and carbon dioxide ice, which make up the polar cap. The false color image highlights the distribution of different water-bearing minerals on the planet. The reddish regions in this image indicate areas of enhanced concentrations of water-bearing minerals. They are perhaps related to a water-rich history on this part of Mars. In particular, the large reddish region known as Mare Acidalium could have been a site of massive flooding early in Martian history.
E. Imagine that your research team is in charge of sending a lander to the planet Mars to search for signs that life either does exist or perhaps did exist at some time in the past. If you can only pick one landing site, where will you send your lander? Explain your reasoning.
F. Which of the line spectra from the Spectral Catalog do you think the Hubble Space Telescope could have detected when it was pointed at the reddish region shown in the false color image? List the names of each chemical or mineral and explain the reasoning behind your choices.
G. Based on the data presented in this image, and in the first Mars image, do you think that it is likely that life exists on Mars now? What about in the past? Explain your reasoning.