And the winner is….

A month ago, we asked for your help to decide which bit of the Martian South Pole  (Inca City, Ithaca, or Manhattan) the world would see first to mark the start of the new season of  HiRISE‘s  South Pole monitoring campaign. A big thank you to everyone who voted in the Season 5 Sneak Peek vote,  and many thanks to the HiRISE team and the Zooniverse team for their help as well.

The votes have been tallied and we have a winner. The winner is….

IncaCity

The breakdown in votes can be found below:

final_results

Inca City was the most popular choice. Inca City is known for its boulders. It will be exciting to see if there are already fans by the boulders after the early days of sunlight when the first HiRISE monitoring campaign image gets taken. Once the first observation of Inca City has been acquired and processed by the HiRISE team, it will be made ready for public release. We’ll let you know on the blog as soon as the Inca City observation has been made public.

This image is just a sneak peak of what is to come. We will have all of the South Pole Season 5 monitoring images to look forward to in the future on Planet Four, but in meantime while we wait for the Inca City’s first image, if you have some spare time today, mark seasonal fans and blotches to help us better understand the Martian climate at http://www.planetfour.org

An Introduction to HiRISE

Today we have a guest post from Chuhong Mai, an undergraduate student working on Planet Four this summer as part of the ASIAA Summer Student Program.

By now, you may have helped the Planet Four team classified hundreds of thousands of cutouts produced from HiRISE season 1 to 3 products, and you may have voted for a region target for HiRISE to be observe in season 5, however, but how well do you know about this camera that makes the whole Planet Four project possible? And that’s what this blog post is going to talk about.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera is carried on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft and since the spacecraft entered Mars orbit in 2006, HiRISE has produced a large amount of beautiful images in unprecedented detail. It was in a 2-year Primary Science Phase (PSP) during 2006 and 2007, corresponding to season 1 in Planet Four project. Later, it had two 2-year Extended Science Phases (ESP) in 2008-2009 (season 2) and 2010-2011 (season 3). HiRISE continues today to operate under an extended mission taking images of unprecedented detail. So if you notice the images’ names (not the cutouts’ names), you’ll find all of them begin with PSP or ESP, which indicates the mission phase HiRISE were in when a certain picture was taken. The rest of their names tell you some other information of HiRISE’s orbit.

The HiRISE camera mainly consists of a telescope with 50 cm diameter and a focal plane system right behind it. This plane might be one of the most important parts of HiRISE since 14 CCD detectors are installed on it, each with 2 separated output channels and 2048 pixels. 10 of these CCDs are for the Red band (RED0 to RED9), 2 are for the Infrared (IR) band (IR10, IR11) and the rest 2 are for the Blue-Green (BG) band (BG12, BG13). They overlap each other by around 48 pixels. Their positions are shown in Fig.1. So as you see, the red band will cover a much wider range (5.0-6.4 km wide) of Mars surface than the other two bands, but only RED4 and RED5, which locate at the center, can cooperate with IR and BG band to generate color products (1.0-1.3 km wide). The HiRISE team also use Time Delay Integration (TDI) to increase SNR (Signal-Noise Ratio). The basic idea of TDI is to image the same small patch of surface many times and add up together to improve SNR. Different numbers of TDI lines (8, 32, 64, 128) are used under different conditions. In addition, six pixel binning modes can be used to increase coverage and SNR, either. Click here to learn more about how binning works. On the whole, HiRISE is able to reach a high resolution: 0.25m/pixel with low SNR exceeding 100:1. This makes sub-meter surface study of Mars possible.

The three bands are selected to differentiate a broad classes of surface materials like bedrocks, frost or ice, sand, dust and other minerals and to avoid ambiguities between shades and different materials, which is often the case in grayscale products. Typically, frost and ice appear bright white and blue, sand and rocks appear bluer and darker, while the dust are the reddest material in these images. Therefore, with these bands combined together, a final color product you see are usually not a true-color images (like what you see through naked eyes), it is either an IRB product, which combines the 3 bands mentioned above, or a RGB product, which combines the Red, BG and synthetic blue band. The latter one is used by Planet Four to make cutouts for you, as RGB images usually do better in contrasting RED with BG color variations. Note again that these images are false-color products and the true Mars surface appear relatively bland and red. Sorry about that because how beautiful these cutouts are!

fig1

Fig 1. Schematic of the focal plane system on HiRISE (from A.S. McEwen et al [Reference 2])

Fig 1. Schematic of the focal plane system on HiRISE (from A.S. McEwen et al [Reference 2])

 

References:

W. Alan Delamere, and 15 colleagues, 2009. Color imaging of Mars by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). Icarus, 205, 38-52

Alfred S. McEwen, and 14 colleagues, 2007. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). J. Geophys. Res., 112, E05S02

Update on the Season 5 Sneak Peak Vote

On August 1st, we announced a public vote in partnership with the HiRISE team. It is your chance to decide which of the 3 regions we have featured on Planet Four in the first half of this year  will have its first observation from the new HIRISE monitoring season prepared for public release by the HiRISE team.

P4voteregions

You can help determine which of one these 3 regions on the South Pole will have its first observation of the Season 5 HiRISE monitoring campaign prepared for public release.

Below is the breakdown of the tallied votes as they stand right now. Inca City has the lead with Ithaca trailing not that far behind in second. Manhattan is  a distant third.

figure_1

Cast your vote (as often as you like) until September 1st for Inca City, Ithaca, or Manhattan at www.planetfour.org/vote , and while you’re at it if you can spare some time, help map the seasonal fans and blotches today at www.planetfour.org

Meet the Planet Four Team: Brian Carstensen

Today we have the next installment of our Meet the Planet Four Team series, featuring Brian Carstensen from the Zooniverse development team.

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Name: Brian Carstensen

What is your current position and where/institution?

Front end web developer at the University of Oxford

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I’m originally from Chicago.

In 3 lines explain what you do as part of the Zooniverse development team?

I used to build user interfaces for various projects.
Now I’m working on the UI for the new Zooniverse-as-a-platform infratructure.
I’m also taking on some graphic design responsibility for the new system.

What was your role in Planet Four?

I built the part of the site our volunteers interact with. The marking tools in Planet Four were actually the first prototype of the drawing library now used in most of the more recent Zooniverse projects.

Why do you find interesting about Mars?

I’m just waiting patiently for someone to start terraforming it so my great-great-great-etc. grandbabies can hang out there.

What is your favorite movie?

Primer (2004)

What is your favorite book?

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

What is the song you currently can’t get out of your head?

Ella Fitzgerald’s botched recording of Mack the Knife.

 What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

Six Demon Bag by Man Man
The Milk Eyed Mender by Joanna Newsom
Milo Goes to College by Descendent

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Moscow mule!

The Sun is back!

 I wrote a post on my new blog showing how I go about finding out what’s currently going on at the southpole of Mars!
Sorry for the cross-linking, but there’s no way to show the nice IPython notebooks (combing text and code) in a clear and pretty format here in WordPress:

Planet Four at ZooCon 2014

Image Credit: Grant Miller

Image Credit: Grant Miller

The Zooniverse UK HQ hosted ZooCon 2014 this past Saturday at Oxford University with an afternoon inspired by Zooniverse projects. There was representation from science team members (physically and virtually) from many of the projects as well as some of the core Zooniverse team in attendance.

I was invited to give a talk at this year’s ZooCon virtually. I gave an update on Planet Four, and I talked about the progress the science team has been making towards the project’s first paper. You can find the recorded video below:

If you were at ZooCon or just watched the video and have questions, I’ve started a thread on Talk for further discussion.

There is also going to be a second ZooCon called ZooCon Portsmouth hosted at the University of Portsmouth. It will take place on September 13th. There will be some talks as well as an editathon to improve coverage of Citizen Science on Wikipedia. They have a schedule set for the day that you can check out. More details here (Like the Oxford event, tickets are free, but there is limited space at both the lecture hall and the pub) so do register.

Inca City, Ithaca, Manhattan: Which part of the Martian Arctic do you want to see first?

south_pole_IIM

Image credit: Adapted from Tanaka et al. (2014) ISSN 2329-132X http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3292/

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the HiRISE camera will soon begin the 5th Season of the South Pole seasonal processes monitoring campaign, and now’s your chance to decide which region will have its first observation from the new season prepared for public release by the HiRISE team. Often these first images are striking, and though the Sun is low in the sky and close to the horizon, there may be active carbon dioxide jets present and already starting to create the first springtime fans and blotches!

Since January, we’ve been focusing on targets of interest from the Season 1 campaign asking you to help map fans and blotches in the areas nicknamed ‘Inca City‘, ‘Ithaca‘ (currently live on the site), and ‘Manhattan‘. To celebrate the start of the new monitoring season, Planet Four is partnering with the HiRISE team to organize a  public vote where you get the chance to decide which of these three regions you want to see first.

Voting will be open from August 1, 2014 9am GMT – September 1, 2014 9am GMT. We will be announcing the results on September 2nd. When the winning region’s first Season 5 observation is ready, we’ll post the image here on the blog.

Whether it be the boulders of Inca City, the fans of Ithaca, or the lace terrain of Manhattan that strikes your fancy, cast your vote today (as often as you like) at http://www.planetfour.org/vote.

vote

My Summer with Planet Four

Today we have a guest post from Chuhong Mai, an undergraduate student working on Planet Four this summer as part of the ASIAA Summer Student Program.

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As a summer student at ASIAA (Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica), I am studying seasonal processes on the South Pole of Mars with Dr.Meg Schwamb. Well, we are quite aware that fans and blotches appear and disappear on the South Pole as the seasons change. Via HiRISE on MRO mission, we can obtain unprecedented details of them but also a large amount of unprocessed data. We hope to make good use of the data in order to have a better understanding of their physical processes, yearly evolution and influence on Mars climate.

Our first problem is the position. With all the markings you’ve made on these HiRISE cut-outs, we need to know the precise locations and thus the distribution of them. The way the images you see are Planet Four are processed we can’t directly add the spacecraft information needed to  calculate the latitude and longitude straight from the x and y positions from your markings. Instead I’ve written a pipeline using the Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS) to turn raw HiRISE data from Season 2 & 3  into pretty mosaics with the spacecraft information added. Now we are able to get the detailed greographic information of any point of interest. This means that the Planet Four team can now  measure the actual size and shape of these fans and blotches, as well as to project them on the true surface. Once we do the time series analysis, we can have a deep look on seasonal change.

In addition,  I’m also working on  ‘frost fans‘, which contain pretty blue or white stuff around or in the center of themselves. They are considered to possibly be the condensation of CO2 that come out of the vents,  but we actually have little knowledge of them. I’ll be examining images from Talk where volunteers have used hashtags to mark these features and seeing what I can learn about when and under what conditions these colored features appear. Perhaps the following study could reveal some clues to decode the puzzle.

Meet Chuhong

Name: Chuhong Mai

What is your current position and where/institution?

I am an undergraduate student in Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. And now I am working as a summer student at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA), Taiwan.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

Jiangmen, Guangdong Province, China.

What are your research interests/what do you work on?

I am interested in the whole solar system, and solar systems beyond our own. For me they are places full of miracles and hopes. I’m curious about their origins, their histories and their future. Thus I work on planets, small bodies and planet formation.

Why are you interested in Mars?

Because of its mystery. I am a huge fan of science fiction, and Mars is always one of the most popular topics in sci-fi books and films. I like its red face and wonder what happened and is happening on it.

What is your favorite movie?

Contact, directed by Robert Zemeckis

What is your favorite book?

<The Three Body Problem> by Cixin LIu (It’s not a mathematics textbook but science fiction.)

What is the song you currently can’t get out of your head?

Valder Fields by Tamas Wells

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

<A Plea en Vendredi> by Tamas Wells, <Europa> by Ron Korb, <A Wish to the Moon> by Joe Hisaishi.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Milk tea.

Meet the Planet Four Team: Meg Schwamb

Today we have the next installment of our Meet the Planet Four Team series, featuring Meg Schwamb from the Science Team.

2014_Meg_Schwamb

Image credit: Sundar Srinivasan

 

Name: Meg Schwamb

What is your current position and where/institution?

I am currently an Academia Sinica Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA) located in Taipei, Taiwan.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

I grew up on Long Island, New York in the United States (which means I’m obligated to get all the references to Long Island in Billy Joel songs)

What are your research interests/what do you work on?

I am interested in the fundamental questions of how our Solar System and others formed and evolved, as well as exploring the process of planet formation. I also study the outer Solar System, specifically the planetesimals that reside in the Kuiper Belt (the belt of icy bodies left over from planet formation orbiting  outside Neptune’s orbit) and beyond. I also am involved in the discovery and characterization of extrasolar planets (exoplanets), planets orbiting stars outside our solar system. In addition to being involved with Planet Four, I am a founding member of the Planet Hunters science team. Planet Hunters is a citizen science project enlisting the general public to search for the signatures of exoplanets in the public data from NASA’s Kepler mission.

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

My thesis was studying the small icy planetesimals of the outer Solar System orbiting past Neptune in the region of the Kuiper belt and beyond. I used a wide-field survey to look for more objects like dwarf planet-sized Sedna, whose highly distant and eccentric orbit  cannot be explained by the current architecture of the Solar System. I didn’t find any new Sedna-like bodies in the outer Solar System, but I put constraints on the size and properties of the population.

Why are you interested in Mars?

I’m interested in studying the formation and evolution of all kinds of planets, dwarf planets, and planetesimals. What I find  so exciting about Mars is that it is one of our closest planetary neighbors, and we are reaching out and touching it! Mars is our best studied planet beyond the Earth. We are able to  explore the complex processes and evolution happening on Mars’ surface and atmosphere is such detail thanks to the rovers, landers, and orbiting spacecraft that NASA, ESA, and others have sent to the Red Planet.

What is your favorite movie?

One of my all time favorites is ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and a more recent favorite is ‘Her’.

What is your favorite book?

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

What is the song you currently can’t get out of your head?

My musical tastes are pretty eclectic and varied. There are always several songs in rotation I have playing on repeat since I can’t get them out of my head. There’s too many to just pick one song. I can settle on the top three of the moment: Sia’s “Chandelier”,  Fitz and the Tantrums’ “The Walker”, and Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”.

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”,  How to Destroy Angels’  “Welcome Oblivion” and Nine Inch Nails’ “With Teeth”.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Recently it has been a well made Manhattan, but I always love a glass of good champagne.

Meet the Planet Four Team: Chris Lintott

Today we have the next installment of our Meet the Planet Four Team series, featuring Chris Lintott, Principal Investigator (PI) of the Zooniverse  and PI of Galaxy Zoo.

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Name: Chris Lintott

What is your current position and where/institution?

On a train somewhere in Hampshire, on my way back to Oxford where I’m a researcher in the department of physics & a research fellow at New College.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

Torbay, South Devon.

What are your research interests/what do you work on?

Answering email, with a side line in galaxy evolution and formation and a smattering of exoplanet stuff.

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

Paying attention to chemistry helps us understand star formation, but the chemistry is very sensitive to the environment in which the stars are forming. Also, I went to Hawaii and thought about galaxies.

In 3 lines explain what you do as part of the Zooniverse team?

Answer email. As principle investigator, I try to keep everyone in line and write the grant proposals that keep the whole thing running.

What was your role in Planet Four?

It was a conversation with Candy Hansen (while filming for the BBC) that got the project rolling. I’ve also given advice based on our existing projects.

Why are you interested in Mars?

I like all the ways it isn’t Earthlike – it’s such a strange and interesting place. So like home, and yet so different.

What is your favorite movie?

I just re watched Fargo and am a big Coen brothers fan in general.

What is your favorite book?

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

What is the song you currently can’t get out of your head?

Bellowhead, Gosport Nancy

What three albums would you bring with you to a desert island?

As much of the Ring cycle as I’m allowed.

Bach cello suites (the Yo-Yo Ma version)

Screamadelica

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Sazerac, and Clos Floridene. Not together.

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