Mars cave opening found by 7th graders

The science class from Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., found the opening while working on a research project with the Mars Space Flight Facility run out of Arizona State University.

The small round black spot in this Thermal Emission Imaging System image may be a hole in the roof of a Martian lava tube or cave (click to enlarge). NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Summer vacations for a class of California seventh graders might pale in comparison to the class trip they recently took to Mars.

At least that's what astronomers might say after the class' discovery of an opening into a cave on the Red Planet.

The science class from Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., found the opening while working on a research project with the Mars Space Flight Facility run out of Arizona State University in Tempe.

"The students developed a research project focused on finding the most common locations of lava tubes on Mars," said their teacher, Dennis Mitchell. "Do they occur most often near the summit of a volcano, on its flanks, or the plains surrounding it?"

To answer that question, the students examined more than 200 images of Mars taken with the Thermal Emission Imaging System (Themis), an instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

Using that camera, the students focused on the area around the planet's Pavonis Mons volcano. The only other similar opening near the volcano was found in 2007, when Glen Cushing, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, published a research paper on the surface anomalies.

"This pit is certainly new to us," Cushing told the students, according to a release from the university. He estimated the opening to be 620 feet by 520 feet and the hole to be at least 380 feet deep.

This story originally appeared on CBSNews.com.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Want affordable gadgets for your student?

Everyday finds that will make students' lives easier: chargers, cables, headphones, and even a bona fide gadget or two!