Exploring the Flow of Heat through Mars

Analyzing data using tools, technology and models to construct explanations

Relevant Math, Science and Language Standards

(NGSS.SEP:2,4,5,7) Developing and using models; Analyzing and interpreting data; using mathematics and computational thinking; Engaging in argument from evidence

(CCSSM.MP.4) Model with mathematics.

(CCSS/ELA. RTS.11-12.2) Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Engage with Video

Using Technology to Make Discoveries on Mars

Find out about the technology on the Mars Phoenix Lander that helps NASA remotely explore the distant planet. Learn about the filters that are used to obtain color images, and the high-tech oven that proved the existence of water ice on Mars. [Open Video]


Select 1-page problems appropriate for students' exploration of the math involved with the science theme.

1-The Heat Output of Mars and Earth ....[Link]
2-Exploring Heat Flow and Insulation ....[Link]
3-The Temperature of Earth's Crust ....[Link]
4-Possible InSight Landing Areas....[Link]
Engage with Press Releases

Marsquakes: Red Planet May Still Rumble (October 11 2004: Space.com)

Mars used to be a mover and a shaker. Scientists don't know if it still entertains seismic activity, however. No mission has ever been equipped to properly measure any rattling that might still occur. Now a study comparing images of intriguing pits on Mars to similar features on Earth suggests the red planet indeed still rumbles.

"It's likely that there may be marsquakes today, but seismic monitoring will be required to know for sure," said study leader David Ferrill of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. "Until then, it's just scientific speculation." Ferrill and colleagues at the University of Texas examined images from Mars-orbiting satellites that show strings of depressions -- pits all in a row. Scientists had thought the pit chains, as they are called, might be collapsed lava tubes or sinkholes created when the surface collapses into underground tunnels carved by water.

There are similar pit chains in Iceland, however, that formed along a fault that began shifting in 1975. Aerial photographs in the decades since detail the pits' collapse and, importantly, how erosion and weathering began to erase them, Ferrill explained. [More]

Additional Press Releases:

1-Candidate Sites for 2016 Mars Mission...[Link]
2-InSight Development Milestone...[Link]
3-Extensive Water in Mars Interior ...[Link]
4-Sensor Design Inspired by Lobsters...[Link]
5-A New Martian Impact Crater Appears...[Link]
6-Reservoir for Mars Water Discovered...[Link]


Guide your students to create their own problems using the information found in the press release or video program. Use this as a check of their understanding.


Deepen your students understanding of how data can be analyzed by using interactive spreadsheets.

Exploring Insulation and Heat Flow - Heat transfer, or heat flow, happens in solid materials when the faster-moving particles are in contact with slower-moving particles and transfer some of their energy. In this lab module, You will explore how water boils in several different kinds of pots made from materials that conduct heat differently.(.xlsx file)

Exploring Temperature Changes in Earth's Crust - The center of Earth is hotter than the surface of our sun at nearly 6000 Celsius. Between the core and the surface, the temperature decreases with each kilometer traveled away from the center. In this lab module, you will use actual data from five different mines to calculate the geothermal gradient, and create a linear model of how the temperature changes with depth.(.xlsx file)

Exploring Temperature Changes Beneath the Lunar Crust - In this lab module, you will use actual data from the Apollo 12 mission to calculate the thermal gradient for the moon. When combined with the measure of the heat leaking out from the lunar interior, the thermal gradient can be used to determine what kind of rock makes up the outer layer of the lunar surface.(.xlsx file)

Exploring Heat Flow and Temperature Differences in the Martian Crust - The inside of Mars is very warm, just like the core of our planet Earth. This heat travels through the planet and escapes through its surface. The rock and surface material of Mars acts like the insulation in the attic of a house. In this lab module, you will adjust the heat flow and type of surface material to predict how the surface temperature changes with depth. (.xlsx file)

Exploring Heat Flow in the Martian Interior - For a given amount of heat energy escaping the planet's surface, called the heat flux, the change in temperature with depth can be used to figure out what kind of material is in the surface of Mars. This lab lets you adjust the heat flow and type of interior material to match the mass, density and surface temperature of Mars.(.xlsx file)


Evaluate student's understanding of how math, science and technology work together to increase our understanding of Mars (e.g. marsquakes, interior, heat flow) through formative or summative assessments.