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Mars—Why is it red?

Mars has large amounts of iron oxide. You can make a replica of Martian soil. Within one week, the iron particles in your replica soil should rust and create the familiar red color of the Martian surface.

Make Martian Soil!

Materials needed: Small jars with lids, sand, small rocks (light colored aquarium gravel works well) spray bottle with water, and steel wool pads (without soap) or iron filings.

To do: Mix together sand and rocks to cover the bottom of the jar. Add about one tablespoon of cut up steel wool pads or iron filings. Spray the surface with water, about three sprays or until moist. Do not mix or shake after wetting the surface. Make observations for a week. What does this mean about the composition of Mars soil?

How do craters form on the Mars surface?

Meteors landing on the surface of Mars cause the craters we see. As meteors fall through the atmosphere, they heat up from friction with the air. Those meteors that make it to a planet’s surface without burning up are called meteorites. On Earth, many meteors are burned up before they hit the surface. The Earth’s strong gravitational pull causes meteors to accelerate rapidly through the atmosphere, creating more friction and more heat.

Mars has less gravitational pull and less atmosphere than Earth, so there is less friction and less heating. More meteors make it to the Martian surface and therefore more craters are made. On impact, the energy from the collision melts the surfaces—of the planet and the meteorite. The molten material bounces away from the surface. Planets with less gravity permit the material to travel farther before being pulled back to the surface of the planet, so the crater rings are larger and have lower walls. There is little evidence of craters on Earth because active geological processes on Earth, such as erosion and Earth movements, erase them over time

Form your own craters!

Materials needed: dish pan, flour, rocks of various sizes and shapes, a ball bearing or other metal object, rulers, a magnet.

To do: Predict what patterns will form if you drop a metal ball bearing to represent a meteorite into a dish pan with a deep layer of flour. Drop the meteorite—what was the shape of the crater? Carefully remove the meteorite with a magnet and measure the width and depth.

Then test how different sizes and shapes of meteorites (use different size ball bearings or various other metal objects) affect crater formation. Design an experiment to test if meteors falling at different speeds affect crater formation. (The longer an object falls, the more gravity will accelerate the rate of the fall.)

For more Mars fun, check out these websites: Mars Pathfinder Project at and Ames Center for Mars Exploration at

At Carnegie Science Center

Enjoy Mission to Mars and Return to the Red Planet at the Science Center.  See Mysterious Mars:  Fact and Fantasy.

Having Fun with Sculpture

Man with Glass Hat is a clay sculpture by American artist Michael Lucero. Can you find the two large shapes Lucero has stacked up to form the man and his glass hat in the picture (at right)? Lucero makes his sculpture out of clay then paints it with brilliant colors and pictures. As you can see, he doesn’t usually paint eyes, nose, and mouth on his sculpture where we would expect to see them. Instead he uses his imagination to cover his sculpture with pictures of animals, insects, scenes from nature, memories from his childhood, or things that have special meaning for him. What has Lucero painted where we would expect to see a face on this sculpture? Do a rabbit and a glass hat remind you of a magician? What do you know about moths, like the one on Lucero’s sculpture, that makes them seem a little magical?

Design Your Own Figure

Materials needed: unlined paper; pencil; crayons, markers, or colored pencils; glue, scissors, old magazines and tracing paper optional.

By combining shapes of things you see at home like milk bottles, teapots, or flower vases, you can design your own figure and cover it with pictures of your favorite things. Look around for shapes to sketch, or trace shapes from Lucero’s sculpture that you see in this magazine. When you have arranged your shapes as you like, glue them down to a large piece of paper. Now you’re ready to add pictures to the "person" you have created. Use crayons, markers, or colored pencils to add pictures from your imagination or from the world around you. Or ask an adult to help you cut pictures out of other magazines to combine with your drawings. Will you add a glass hat? What would be a good name for your creation? Maybe you can imagine an adventure your character will take.

At the Museum

You can see Man with Glass Hat and 43 other sculptures by Michael Lucero at Carnegie Museum of Art from now until May 24. Special activities for kids and grown ups are planned in the Michael Lucero exhibition. See Michael Lucero:  Scultpure 1976-1995.

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