Marsquake: seismology on another planet
The MarsQuake project provides a set of teaching resources and classroom activities that can use real data and images sent back from the 2018 NASA InSight mission to Mars.
Aimed at 11–18 year-olds (KS 3, 4 and 5), these activities include modelling and locating meteorite impacts, or marsquakes, which will help us understand more about the internal structure of the ‘red planet’. The InSight lander will deploy two seismometers that will send live data back to Earth. It offers our first chance to look at extra-terrestrial quake data since the Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and 1970s. Data from InSight’s seismometers will be transmitted back to Earth and will be freely accessible online. The mission is expected to last at least a year and should send back a continuous stream of data for scientists, and students, to analyse.
Practical classroom activities
The activities relating to MarsQuake are online at www.bgs.ac.uk/marsquake and involve a mixture of real data from Mars and simple classroom simulations. The activities include:
1. finding meteorite impacts on Mars using hi-resolution satellite imagery of Mars from the HiRise Orbiter
2. simulating meteorite impacts in the classroom with ball-drop experiments
3. studying seismic waves in the classroom
4. detecting seismic waves with simple sensors in the classroom, using tablets and smartphones, home-made seismometers and simple accelerometers
5. analysing seismic events from a single station using data from earthquakes, impacts and explosions, ‘moonquakes’, and eventually data from Mars
Students will be shown how to look at seismic data using simple spreadsheets, semi-professional analysis software and simple computer programs, which they could write themselves.
The MarsQuake project covers a broad range of topics primarily within the physics curriculum, including the solar system, waves, energy, distance/speed/time calculations, but the investigations (and its variations) can be used to underpin the teaching within a number of different subjects, such as maths, geology and geography.