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Japan 2001 Science, Creativity and The Young Mind Workshop
Student Report from Akiro Nakamura

The Space Science Team studied Olympus Mons, the biggest volcano in the solar system.

We were in daily videoconference link with Joseph Kolecki of the NASA Glenn Research Center's Learning Technologies Project, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, and were supported in Bristol by Dr. Karsten Riedel, Stuart Stansfield and Professor Steve Sparks, FRS, in the University of Bristol Earth Sciences Department, and by Lawrence Williams, Holy Cross School, New Malden, who facilitated the ICT link with NASA.

Members of the Space Science Team were Toshiyuki Itai (Tsukuba Daigaku fuzoku Kotogakko), Miss Rania Kashi (Cardinal Vaughan School, London), Akiro Nakamura (Kaisei Gakuen), Ryo Nakamura (Rikkyo Niiza High School), Lee Parsons (Hengrove School, Bristol) and Adriano Silva (Sir George Monoux Sixth Form College, Walthamstow).

1. Plate Tectonics

Plate Tectonics plays a very important part in the cause of volcanoes and earthquakes on Earth. The outer crust of the Earth's surface is composed of plates, which are very thin (only 50-60 km). Under the plates, the rock is fluid at very high temperatures, 1200-1300 Cº. At the bottom of the ocean, there are many chains of peaks, from which the plates in the seabed move in opposite directions. The speed of the movement of the plates is only as fast as the growth of a human nail, equal to 6 cm per year. However, since the Earth's surface is composed of several plates, whenever one plate moves, it crushes other plates. A boundary made in this way exists in Japan (there are 4 plates). As a result, Japan has many earthquakes. At this boundary, the heavier plate sinks in under the other plate, and this impact creates earthquakes and also causes volcanoes. Japan is also a country of many volcanoes.

But there is another cause of volcanoes. They can be caused by hot spots under plates. Hot spots are the places where liquid magma rock at high temperature rises from the core deep in the earth, and creates volcanoes and shapes islands together as the result of eruptions. As the plates move, the islands are formed one after another and form a shape like a chain. The best example of this on Earth is the Hawaii islands. This is the importance of Plate Tectonics.

When we observe the surface of the Mars, the magnetic directions of the crust rocks show striped-lines. This is the evidence of Plate Tectonics on Mars, and could be caused by the reversal of the magnetic field direction on Mars at certain periods in the past. The striped-lines could be formed by a regular movement of the surface shell; and by studying this direction, the age of the surface shell could be discovered.

2. Olympus Mountain

The biggest volcano in the solar system, located in the Tharsis area of Mars, is Olympus Mons. Its volume is about 3 millions km³ and is equal to the whole of the Hawaiian Islands. Its height is 26 km and is three times the height of the highest mountain on earth, Everest.

However, its angle is quite mild, only 5º. This shows how big the volcano is. It took 31 million years to form Olympus Mons and this is as old as the Hawaii islands. Although the scale of Olympus Mons and Mauna Loa in Hawaii are different, they were adequate to be compared since they are both typical shield volcanoes.

There is a theory that Olympus Mons was caused by the impact of a huge meteorite. This is because there is a huge crater, the Heles field almost opposite the location of Olympus Mons. According to the theory, the impact of the meteorite transmitted through the interior of Mars, and was deflected by the liquid core. Therefore, the Olympus Mons was formed in a location opposite the point of the crater. The depression of the crater arose on the opposite side, like two pendulums in Newton's Third Law.

3. Caldera in Olympus Mons

When you observe Olympus Mons, you can see the huge Caldera composed of several parts on top of the mountain. First, the biggest crater of the Caldera is formed by the eruption, and then small collapses are repeated many times, creating small craters. As a result, the overlapping rings of the Caldera are formed. You can see many traces of magma in the inside and on the outside of the Caldera. These are just like aqueducts. The speed of the flow of magma depends on its viscosity, and the viscosity is determined by the amount of silica (SiO2) in the magma and by the temperature. The magma in the Olympus Mons is similar to that in Mauna Loa and contains small amount of silica indicating that the viscosity was low. Therefore, the magma flowed very easily, and formed the enormous shielded volcano.

4. Conclusion

Mars will be the most important planet in space development from now on. The next goal after the arrival on the Moon must be to search for life on Mars. Mars could be the second earth as a stage of terraforming plan.

We are very glad that we were able to make an interesting investigation about Mars. We are grateful to the Workshop Organizer, Dr Eric Albone; his colleagues Dr Carsten Riedel, Stewart Stansfield, and Lawrence Williams; and to Professor Shimoi and other professors and teachers from Japan; the Faciliator, Kako Iwaki; and all the people who were involved in the workshop, including Joseph Kolecki and his colleagues at NASA.

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