Students Chose HiRISE Camera Targets on Mars


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Last week, third-grade students from Sunridge Elementary School in Phoenix, Ariz., saw their chosen spot on Mars released to the world in a new image from the High Resolution Imaging Experiment camera, known as the HiRISE camera.

This week, an astronomy and space research class at the Alternative Secondary School of Economics in Budapest, Hungary, chose HiRISE's "student image of the week," which has been released worldwide via the Web site, http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu. The HiRISE camera is orbiting on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and is operated at The University of Arizona in Tucson.

In the past six months, more than 1,500 students in grades three to 14 in schools as far-flung as Hungary, Nepal, Curaçao, India, Arizona and New Jersey submitted candidate targets for HiRISE, places on Mars that may have once been covered in water. Because of time and camera constraints, only 12 of the suggested targets were chosen for the first round. All participating students, however, were invited to scrutinize the HiRISE images for signs of water or ice, as well as write captions for the images.

The Phoenix third-graders suggested that HiRISE take an image of a valley system called Iberus Vallis, located on the southeast flank of the volcano, Elysium Mons, in the northern lowland of Mars. The Budapest students chose a region south of a plateau named Euripus Mons, which is east of the Hellas impact basin in Mars' southern hemisphere, because they wanted a sharp view of the debris apron, which may be an ice-created flow.

The HiRISE team, headed by UA Professor Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, along with NASA's Quest program have announced their second challenge for students in classrooms around the world to select the next targets in HiRISE's search for features formed by water on Mars. The HiRISE Challenge gives students an opportunity to experience being virtual members of the science team and participate in cutting-edge Mars research. Virginia Gulick of the NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute leads the HiRISE educational outreach program.

"We want students and teachers to learn more about Mars and have experiences similar to science team members," Gulick said. "Students not only suggest targets, but actually analyze images and write captions for them. This is similar to what the science team routinely does. To my knowledge, unless they're already working with the team, students have never had this opportunity to help write captions and experience this part of the process."

Students and teachers can signup online at http://quest.nasa.gov/challenges/hirise. HiRISE images are online at http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu and http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/HiRISE.

The HiRISE camera is the most powerful camera to orbit any planet other than Earth. It takes images of 3.5-milewide (6 kilometer) swaths as the orbiter flies at about 7,500 mph between 155 and 196 miles (250 to 316 kilometers) above Mars' surface. HiRISE science imaging began in November 2006 and will continue at least through November 2008.

The HiRISE camera is also known as the People's Camera because the public can easily and quickly access the images, and because team scientists are working to give the public more opportunities to suggest where on Mars' surface are good places to point the camera.

Information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft is online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, of Denver, is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., of Boulder, Colo., built the HiRISE camera.

CONTACT: Virginia Gulick (650-604-0781; vgulick@mail.arc.nasa.gov)

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