Problem Set
Deadly Dust: A 'Pi in the Sky' Math Challenge
Overview
The "Pi in the Sky" math challenge gives students a chance to take part in recent discoveries and upcoming celestial events, all while using math and pi just like NASA scientists and engineers. In this problem from the set, students use the mathematical constant pi to calculate how much of Mars was covered during the giant 2018 dust storm.Materials
Background
In late spring of 2018, a dust storm began on Mars and eventually covered nearly the entire planet in a cloud of dust. Darkness fell across Mars’ surface, blocking sunlight used by the solarpowered Opportunity rover to charge its batteries. At its height, the storm covered all but the peak of Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the solar system. In the Deadly Dust challenge, students must use pi to calculate what percentage of the Red Planet was covered by the dust storm.
Procedures
Deadly Dust
In the summer of 2018, a large dust storm enshrouded Mars, blocking visibility over a large portion of the planet. The thick dust covered almost all of the Mars surface, blocking the vital sunlight that NASA’s solarpowered Opportunity rover needed to survive. In fact, the storm was so intense and lasted for so long that Opportunity, which had spent 14.5 years traveling around the Red Planet, never managed to regain consciousness and the mission had to come to an end.
During the height of the storm, only the upper caldera of one of the solar system’s largest volcanos, Olympus Mons, peeked out above the dust cloud. The diameter of Olympus Mons’ caldera is approximately 70 km.
What percent of the Mars surface was covered in dust at that time?
Assessment
Extensions
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