Lesson 4

Volcanoes and Impact Craters 


  • To discover and investigate volcanoes and impact craters using satellite images of Mars and Earth
  • To learn the different parts of the impact crater
  • To hypothesize and conclude, using data and laboratory experiments, if forms seen in satellite images are volcanoes or impact craters 

Appendix 1 PowerPoint: Volcanoes and Impact Craters

Appendix 2: Satellite Images of Mars  from NASA Educator Resource Guide: Mars and Earth Activity #6

Appendix 3: Impact Crater Experiment Materials and Procedures

Appendix 4 Impact Crater Observation and Data Sheet

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1)    Review with the students Lesson #2 Water experiment.  How did we use Satellite images and laboratory models to hypothesize and conclude what formations were created by water?  Why are laboratory experimental models important to scientist at NASA? 
a.    Allows scientists to recreate formations found in satellite images of far away places to determine what is happening there
b.    Allows scientist to use what is known on Earth about formations in satellite images to conclude about far away places.
2)    Begin PowerPoint presentation for Lesson #4 (Appendix 1)
a.    Discuss Pele as the Hawaiian Goddess of fire.  Hawaiians had great respect for the active volcanoes.
b.    Ask if anyone knows the name of the active volcano that is currently erupting in the state of Hawai’i (Kilauea).  Which island is the volcano located on? (Hawai’i)  Name all three of the volcanoes considered active at this time: Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Lo’ihi.
c.    Discuss the “hot spot” theory of how the Hawaiian volcanoes are formed and why they are all located on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Use slide to discuss the three active volcanoes, location, and that they are a shield volcano.
d.    Show satellite image of Kilauea, noting characteristics.
e.    Show image of a known impact crater on Earth (India) that was thought to be a volcano until the middle of the 1900’s.  This is a great example of why scientists need to continue to investigate land formations on Earth because sometimes we are not correct in our conclusions. 
f.    Show image of Ecuador volcano noting that it is a different type of volcano than Kilauea (Cone versus Shield volcano).
g.    Compare the satellite image of Olympus Mons on Mars to the satellite image of Kilauea on Earth, noting similarities (formation of the crater, shield form)
h.    Ask the students to suggest which of the pictures in the next slide of Mars is an impact crater and which is a volcano.  Guide the students by showing the ejecta blanket and walls found in the image of the impact crater as opposed to the volcano image. 
i.    Discuss with the students how scientists use the satellite images to hypothesize what could have possibly created features on far away planets.  Show the students an artistic rendering of MSL rover that NASA will launch to land on Mars in 2009.  Using laboratory experiments here on Earth and the rovers on Mars scientists can conclude which images are volcanoes and which images are impact craters.
j.    Discuss the different, distinctive parts of an impact crater.  What might change the look of the impact crater?  Suggest size of meteor, speed of meteor during impact, and angle of the impact. 
k.    Have the students look at the packet of Mars satellite images to hypothesize which image is a volcano and which image is an impact crater (Appendix 2). 
3)    Break the students into small groups (3-4 students per group) to do the Impact Crater experiment (Appendix 3-Adapted from NASA Educator Resource Guide: Mars and Earth/ Activity #6).  Using the Observations and Data sheet, have students record their findings (Appendix 4).
a.    Have the students start by dropping a marble from chest high straight into the flour/cocoa tray. 
b.    Next, have the students drop the same marble from a higher location, carefully using a chair to stand on if needed.
c.    Next, have the students change marbles to see if the size of the marble (meteor) changes the ejecta blanket, walls, rim or floor of the impact crater. 
d.    Have the students carefully “throw” the meteor to increase the marbles speed.  How did this change the result in the laboratory model?
e.    Have the students change the angle of the impact on the substrate.  Refer to the last slide in the PowerPoint and ask the students, “How was this Elliptical crater formed?  Can anyone replicate this unusual type of impact crater?”
4)    Allow the students time to draw and measure the best impact craters that they created.  Enter this information in the Observation and Data sheet. 
5)    Have students conclude which images were probably formed by impact from meteors from their satellite images of Mars.
6)    Summarize key points.

Standard 1: The Scientific Process: SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION:
"Discover, invent, and investigate
using the skills necessary to engage in the scientific process"
Benchmark SC.ES.1.3 

Defend and support conclusions, explanations, and arguments based
on logic, scientific knowledge, and evidence from data

General Learner Outcomes:
Community Contributor:

The understanding that it is essential for human beings to work together
Complex Thinker:The ability to demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving
Effective Communicator:The ability to communicate effectively