Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Martian Sundial Designed For 2001 Space Mission Is Unveiled By Bill Nye "The Science Guy"

Date:
April 22, 1999
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
For the first time in history, humanity will send a sundial to another planet. Inscribed with the motto "Two Worlds, One Sun," the sundial will travel to Mars aboard NASA's Mars Surveyor 2001 lander.

ITHACA, N.Y. -- For the first time in history, humanity will send a sundial to another planet. Inscribed with the motto "Two Worlds, One Sun," the sundial will travel to Mars aboard NASA's Mars Surveyor 2001 lander.

Pictures of the sundial, taken by the lander's panoramic camera after its arrival at Mars in January 2002, will reveal the passage of the hours and seasons as the sun moves across the Martian sky. And the sundial's central black, gray, and white rings and corner color tiles will act as a calibration target -- a kind of test pattern -- to adjust the brightness and tint of pictures taken by the camera.

In the process, the sundial could become one of the most photographed objects ever sent to another world.

The sundial design team included Jon Lomberg, an artist and creative consultant to the Mauna Kea Center for Astronomy Education, Hawaii; Tyler Nordgren, an artist and astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.; sundial expert Woodruff Sullivan, professor of astronomy at the University of Washington; Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society; Cornell University astronomers Steven Squyres and Jim Bell; and Bill Nye, the television writer and host of the public television children's science program, "Bill Nye The Science Guy."

"Our ancestors made astonishing discoveries about the nature of the heavens and our place in it by closely watching the motion of shadows," said Nye, unveiling the sundial design at a press conference at Cornell today (April 21). "Now, at the dawn of the next century, we can make observations of new shadows, this time on another planet."

Appropriately for a science instrument involving Nye, the sundial design evolved through suggestions and drawings from children across the United States, solicited by Sheri Klug, director of Arizona State University's Mars Education and Outreach Program.

The sundial will be 3 inches (about 8 centimeters ) square, and will weigh just over 2 ounces (60 grams). Made of aluminum to minimize its weight, the anodized metal surfaces will be black and gold. The photometric surfaces, which will be used to calibrate the Mars lander's color panoramic camera, called the Pancam, are made of a special silicone rubber compound. Photo-etching and engraving will be used to apply the lettering and the drawings to the face and side panels of the sundial.

The central black, gray and white calibration rings are arranged to represent the orbits of Mars and Earth, and red and blue dots show the positions of the planets at the time of the landing in 2002. Portions of the central shadow post are gold to represent the sun.

The sundial carries a message for future Martian explorers who may seek it out, or who may find it by good fortune. The four gold side panels around the sundial's base are engraved with the words:

"People launched this spacecraft from Earth in our year 2001. It arrived on Mars in 2002. We built its instruments to study the Martian environment and to look for signs of life. We used this post and these patterns to adjust our cameras and as a sundial to reckon the passage of time. The drawings and words represent the people of Earth. We sent this craft in peace to learn about Mars' past and about our future. To those who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery."

The Pancam is is one of four instruments being developed for the Mars 2001 lander under the leadership of Squyres, a Cornell professor of astronomy, assisted by 20 researchers around the world, including Bell, an assistant professor of astronomy, and a team of about 20 Cornell undergraduates and staff. Together these instruments form the Athena Precursor Experiment, or APEX, which will be a prelude to the Athena Mars rover and sample return mission in 2003.

To help design the sundial, Arizona State's Klug sought the ideas of schoolchildren. Announcements were made at a meeting of the National Science Teachers Association in Seattle in 1998, and via several international electronic mailing lists. Over 160 design concepts were submitted from children across the country.

One idea suggested by children was that the sundial bear writing in many languages, representing the diverse cultures of Earth. The face of the sundial is engraved with the word "Mars" in Arabic, Bengali, Braille, Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Inuktituk, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lingala, Malay-Indonesian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai. Together these languages are used by more than three quarters of Earth's population. Also included are ancient Sumerian and Mayan. Mars figured prominently in both the Sumerian and Mayan cultures.

Several children also suggested that stick-figure drawings be included, representing the people of Earth. Artist Lomberg combined stick figures drawn by children with other space-related motifs to create the series of drawings that appear on the sundial's side panels. The aim of these pictures is to capture the optimistic spirit of the text message, combining a childlike sense of wonder with a vision of the human future in space.

Once the spacecraft lands on Mars and the exact orientation of the sundial can be determined, viewers will be able to tell local Martian time from sundial images and a computer-generated overlay posted on the World Wide Web. Mirrored segments along the outer ring of the sundial will also reveal the color of the sky above the lander. Over the course of a day, viewers on Earth will thus see the passage of time on Mars recorded in the sweep of the shadow of the sundial's central post and the changing colors of the Martian sky. The shadow will also reveal the changing Martian seasons over the full duration of the mission.

---------------------------------------

Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.

APEX/Athena Project: http://athena.cornell.edu

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars Surveyor 2001 mission:http://www.mars.jpl.nasa.gov/2001

Cornell astronomy department: http://astrosun.tn.cornell.edu

Arizona K-12 Mars Education Program: http://emma.la.asu.edu/neweducation.html


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Martian Sundial Designed For 2001 Space Mission Is Unveiled By Bill Nye "The Science Guy"." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990422055433.htm>.
Cornell University. (1999, April 22). Martian Sundial Designed For 2001 Space Mission Is Unveiled By Bill Nye "The Science Guy". ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990422055433.htm
Cornell University. "Martian Sundial Designed For 2001 Space Mission Is Unveiled By Bill Nye "The Science Guy"." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990422055433.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins