This interactive provides you with data about the geological structure of the planet Mercury. The interactive opens with a blank grid that is gradually filled in by a moving satellite to show various features of the planet’s surface — scarps, dormant volcanoes, and impact craters. As the data comes in, you need to analyze the surface images in order to find these features. You should do this by moving your mouse over the grid until you find one of the features in the site on the right side of the screen. To capture the data, you should click on the feature you have found. You need to locate 15 geological features before the data disappears.
GeoHunter is both like and unlike the real MESSENGER mission to Mercury. The goals of the game are actually the same as the mission’s main goal of exploring the geologic history of Mercury. Plus, the big features that you are supposed to locate in the game are actual planetary features that MESSENGER is hoping to explore as part of the mission. Unlike the game, though, the MESSENGER mission promises to amass a rich store of knowledge. MESSENGER instruments will send back data about many other features of Mercury and there is no time limit for studying the data. Scientists will pour over the results of the mission for decades and may wind up discovering things that they don’t even know to look for yet.
The GeoHunter interactive would be a good tool to use when students are studying specific planets in the solar system. It could be used to help students compare and contrast the planet Mercury with another planet in the solar system. This tool also could be used to help students learn how to discuss and interpret data. For instance, you could encourage students to discuss the data they see in the interactive and give various interpretations for the data. Students could then discuss how different explanations can be given for the same evidence.