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Mars Team Online WebChat

Date: March 27, 1998

Featuring: Jim Bell
Astronomer, Planetary Science
Cornell Univeristy, Ithaca, New York

Main Room

last read Fri Mar 27 12:12:06 1998

[ JimBell/CornellU - 7 - 10:59:38 ]
Jim Bell, here from Cornell, ready to go!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 11 - 11:03:34 ]
Welcome to today's Mars Team Online chat with Jim Bell from Cornell University! Although Jim studies planets, moons, asteroids and comets within and outside our solar system, his specialty is Mars. Jim studies pictures of and data about Mars from telescopes and NASA spacecraft missions (like the Mars Pathfinder). He tries to learn what the surface of Mars is like, what it's made of, and how much like Earth it may have been a long time ago. All of this takes place at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where Jim works.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 12 - 11:04:34 ]
RE: [Diana-Diana/Science] are you awnsering questions now ?
Jim Bell will now answer your questions. Thank you for joining us today.

[ JimBell/CornellU - 16 - 11:07:40 ]
Diana: Many asteroids pass close to the Earth. The one predicted to pass by in 2028 will not hit the Earth but will pass pretty close. A good chance for astronomers to study it in detail. -JB

[ JonnasJets-KarenJ.Massey - 15 - 11:07:25 ]
2nd and 6th graders/we have a group question.Do you have any information about the Big Slam theory?

[ JimBell/CornellU - 17 - 11:08:52 ]
Q15: What's the "Big Slam" theory? Are you referring to the possible origin of the Moon? -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 23 - 11:18:24 ]
RE: [JonnasJets-KarenJ.Massey] We were talking about the asteroid that might hit the Earth.
I see. Well, asteroids hit the Earth all the time, it's just not that frequent. A big asteroid WILL hit the Earth again in the future, it just might not be for 100 years or 1000 years or 1,000,000 years; no one knows. So "Big Slams" are not just theories: they happen all the time on the geologic time scale.

[ JimBell/CornellU - 19 - 11:11:34 ]
RE: [MrsMyers-Mrs.Myers/ChancellorElementary] Hi Mr. Bell. We are first graders from Chancellor Elementary in Pennsylvania. We are studying space. We would like to ask you why you think it is important that we study Mars.
Good question! Mars is very much like the Earth: a rocky planet with an atmosphere and evidence for water in the past. We know life formed on Earth (we're here!) but did life form elsewhere in the solar system or the Universe too? Mars may be the best place to try to find out... that's one reason. There's lots more...

[ JimBell/CornellU - 25 - 11:22:25 ]
RE: [Marsgroup-KarenJ.Massey] How thick is the crust on Mars? Our group of sixth and second graders has 4 people in it.
The Martian crust is anywhere from 20 to 100 km thick, scientists think. It varies depending on whether the region of the crust has volcanoes, deep canyons, or impact craters. --JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 26 - 11:24:13 ]
RE: [Bryan/NPAA] Jim...yesterday it was stated in a NASA press release that Cydonia will be a priority target for the MOC camera. Could you comment on your thoughts regarding the Cydonia region?
Mars Global Surveyor will map the entire planet eventually, so even if certain surface areas don't get covered in the next few months of "special" operations during aerobraking ("special" because they are bonus measurements that no one thought would be even possible to try), the whole planet will covered in a year. I'm looking forward to seeing these features and other interesting geologic landforms imaged in more detail than the limited Viking data. -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 30 - 11:26:42 ]
RE: [MrsMyers-Mrs.Myers/ChancellorElementary] We did an experiment using steel wool, sand, and water to make a Mars-scape. The sand turned red like Mars. If there was water on Mars at one time, how did it get there and what happened to it now?
What a great experiment! You made Mars rust. No one really knows where all the water is today. There are some theories though: maybe it's all stored in the polar caps (no one really knows how far these go down below the "tip of the iceberg" visible on the surface). Maybe the water escaped to space when sunlight broke it down into hydrogen and oxygen. Maybe it's all stored underground in aquifers like in the midwest U.S. It's a mystery that the next round of spacecraft are hoping to solve... but we might not REALLY know until astronauts go there one day. -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 33 - 11:30:02 ]
RE: [MrsMyers-Mrs.Myers/ChancellorElementary] Mr. Bell, we would like to know if there could have been life on Mars at one time?
Good question! What do you need for life: you need liquid water, organic molecules, and a source of heat. There is evidence that liquid water once flowed on Mars a long time ago (it's can't today, the pressure and temperature are too low). There is some evidence from the famous Martian meteorite announced in 1996 that organic molecules may exist on Mars. They certainly exist on Earth and astronomers have discovered evidence for them in molecular clouds in space. Finally, Mars has had volcanoes and impacts, and these are sources of heat. So you can argue that all the ingredients were there at one time or another.... but did the "spark" ever ignite? I don't know... -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 36 - 11:32:41 ]
RE: [Drakio-KarenJ.Massey] What amount of water was on Mars at one time?
This is a controversial question. Some astronomers think Mars may have been half-covered by oceans at one time, meaning there was a lot of water, perhaps equal to a few kilometers thick if spread around the whole planet. Others think that the water-carved features were formed very gradually or sporadically and so small amounts of water were involved, maybe only a few tens or hundreds of meters globally. Today of course there are only a few tens of millionths of meters of water in the Martian atmosphere, and all the rest (how much is unknown) is preserved in the polar caps. -JB

[ MrsMyers-Mrs.Myers/ChancellorElementary - 37 - 11:32:42 ]
Thank you Mr. Bell for answering our questions. We learned a lot about Mars. Have a nice weekend.

[ JimBell/CornellU - 39 - 11:34:08 ]
RE: [Ashley/RMS-Ashley/RMS] Hi my name is Ashley Wyatt. I am hoping to be a Mars Scientist. I've talked to colledges and serched very hard for all the information. I think that Mars is the most spectacular thing in this Univerise. -AW
Good for you Ashley! Learn some math, some chemistry, some physics, some computer science, som engineering, and some biology and you're ready to study Mars! You're just about the right age to be in the first group of astronauts, if NASA's plans go through as some of us hope they will. -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 40 - 11:34:39 ]
RE: [Mars2Group-KarenJ.Massey] Have you ever noticed a comet that was about to hit Earth,and if sowhat was its name and how big was it? we are study buddies from White Lake School in Fort Worth,Texas.
Nope. -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 46 - 11:38:40 ]
RE: [Blastoff-KarenJ.Massey] Do you think there is water under the surface of Mars? We studied your biography this morning. We have also been looking in books to find information about Mars to come up with our question. We are from Fort Worth, Texas.
I think there is at least ICE under the surface, which is a form of water. LIQUID water? I'm not so sure. The way science works, it doesn't really matter what I think: what really matters is: what are the facts? There are very few facts about the Mars underground, so most of the ideas are just speculation. -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 47 - 11:40:04 ]
RE: [Ashley-Ashley/RMS] What colledge would be the best to go to to have the best degree in science? -AW
First: remember that it's spelled "college", not "colledge" ;) There are THOUSANDS of great colleges in the U.S. and in other countries! Some argue that the "best" are places like MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Harvard, Arizona, and of course Cornell at the TOP of the list...

[ Ashley-Ashley/RMS - 51 - 11:42:28 ]
I already wrote to Harvard but I figured that they were more of a Buissness and Law school. And guess what they want me in their college!!

[ JimBell/CornellU - 53 - 11:43:13 ]
RE: [Bryan/NPAA] Jim...based on the work of Dr. Tom Van Flandern and other researchers, do you feel there is a probability "the Face," and other features in the Cydonia region are artifical?
I am not familiar with Van Fladron's work but I have seen many of the Viking pictures and I believe that the strange-looking features in many places of the planet are the result of some really interesting and wild geologic processes. Our geologic experience here on Earth doesn't necessarily prepare us for the geology of other planets. the Viking high resolution images are quite poor, though, so it's hard to believe ANYONE'S interpretation of crummy data. That's why I'm really looking forward to the Mars Global Surveyor's global coverage. -JB

[ Bryan/NPAA - 56 - 11:45:56 ]
Thank you for your response Jim...

[ JimBell/CornellU - 55 - 11:45:05 ]
RE: [Ashley-Ashley/RMS] Is it true that there is gypsum in Mars rocks so that if you add Martian soil and some water you could "make enough cement to make a terrestrial Jamestown?
There is weak evidence for minerals like gypsum in Mars soil, but not in the rocks. Where did you get the cement quote? I had never heard that one. You should always be cautious about such statements; remember: we know very little about Mars. We are just learning. -JB

[ Ashley-Ashley/RMS - 66 - 11:54:13 ]
I got the quote from a "Life" magazine. And yes, I know we are just learning.

[ JimBell/CornellU - 57 - 11:46:37 ]
RE: [Bryan/NPAA] Jim...I understand the Cydonia region is controversial, thus your hesitation to answer questions regarding the hypothesis put forth, but... I am an art teacher doing a project involving geometry, and geometric patterns in nature and man-made objects. Our class has looked at the geometric calculations of the Cydonia region and find them quite startling. My class is on spring break and wanted me to ask you: Do you feel the Cydonia region could be artifical?
Bryan: No hesitation. Just a slow WWW connection. My point previously is that nature is much much more bizzare than humans could ever imagine. As an artist you no doubt appreciate this. -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 59 - 11:50:01 ]
RE: [Meteors-KarenJ.Massey] How many times does Deimos orbit Mars a day? We are 2 second and 1 sixth grader. We are questioning you from White Lake School. Thank you for answering our questions.
Deimos has an orbit period of about 40 hours. Mars rotates in 24 hours, so it takes Deimos 1.3 Mars days to orbit the planet. Phobos, the innermost moon, takes only about 0.4 Mars days to orbit the planet (it spins around Mars two and a half times each Mars day!) -JB

[ KarenJ.Massey - 62 - 11:52:05 ]
Mr. Bell, Thank you for your time today. This has been a very good experience for our sixth and second graders. They worked in small groups to determine questions to send. These chats are great opportunities to connect students with experts in the field. Thank you for your responses.

[ JimBell/CornellU - 64 - 11:53:26 ]
RE: [Ashley-Ashley/RMS] When do you think that they will start sending PEOPLE to Mars? OK,I am from Raytown Mo and I go to Raytown Middle School, Or it used to be called Pittman But theyv'e changed it.
There are no firm plans, but one possibility is as early as 2015 or 2020. It will be very expensive, and very risky, and the governments of the world (and taxpayers of the world) have not yet decided that it's important enough to spend many tens of billions of dollars on. But some plans are being thought about. -JB

[ JimBell/CornellU - 67 - 11:54:37 ]
RE: [Bryan/NPAA] I do appreciate this Jim, and feel it is important to keep an objective eye...but data published, and presented to NASA recently, is very interesting! I would make a suggestion that you read Dr. Van Flandern and Dr. Carlotto's work on the area, it is remarkable :) Again...thank you. You should talk to NASA about that slow WWW connection!
Objectivity is critical. If the work has been published in the peer-reviewed literature then it needs to be addressed. Let's get some good data and settle the issue once and for all. -JB

[ Bryan/NPAA - 70 - 11:56:49 ]
The work has been published, and Dr. Van Flandern presented his findings at the last AAS meeting. I'm surprised you haven't heard of it.

[ Ashley-Ashley/RMS - 68 - 11:56:05 ]
Bye I will study hard till next time!

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 69 - 11:56:18 ]
Thank you to everyone for joining us for today's chat with Jim Bell from Cornell University.

[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 71 - 11:56:53 ]
A special thanks to Jim for his time with us online. Please join us for our next Mars Team Online chat!

[ JimBell/CornellU - 74 - 11:57:33 ]
Thank you all for the great questions! I have to sign off now, but this has been a lot of fun. Keep up with your studies of the Red Planet! --Jim


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