First publication submitted!

We have finally submitted our first paper for the original Planet Four project to the Icarus journal where it is now officially “Under Review”!

(Above figure is one of the paper where we demonstrate one of the reduction steps to identify noise and create averaged clustered markings. I think it demonstrates well the power of our chosen methodology.)

Thank you to everyone to stay with us for so long without seeing any published results, but I think when you will see the work and care that we put into it, you will understand why it took us so long. One of the reasons was, as we possible mentioned before on this blog, that our Zooniverse project is actually one of the most difficult ones, where we ask all of you to precisely mark objects in the data presented to you. This required a spatial clustering pipeline with a long evaluation and fine-tuning phase.

Which brings me to the point of “see[ing] the work”: we have now managed to have the submitted preprint published on the well known arxiv.org preprint server and you can get your hands on a copy right now! Just click on this link and you will be sent to the arXiv page for our preprint:

https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.10341

Enjoy the (long!) read and don’t shy away to put any questions you have in the comments section below!

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South Polar Locales Comprising the First Planet Four Catalog

The science team is working on ticking off the last things on the todo list before we can submit the first Planet Four paper.  Michael is in the last stages of making edits and changes to the paper draft.  We’re nearly over the finish line. While Michael has been working hard on the manuscript text and catalog files, we’ve  also been iterating on some changes to the figure Anya made that shows all the locations making up the Seasons 2 and 3 monitoring campaign that are part of our fan and blotch catalogs based on your classifications. I thought I would share some of the versions Anya made:

SP_ROIs_map_no_labels

All the locations monitored by HiRISE that were classified by Planet Four volunteers to make the Season 2 and 3 catalog. Credit: G. Portyankina

SP_ROIs_map

All the locations monitored by HiRISE that were classified by Planet Four volunteers to make the Season 2 and 3 catalog. A labeled version (for clarity a few regions don’t have their names listed). We note all of these names are unofficial nicknames and are not IAU approved. Credit: G. Portyankina

It’s really exciting to think back to when this project started in 2013 and now see this plot, where I can say we have fan and blotch identifications for HiRISE images taken in Season 2 and 3 Southern Spring/Summer for all of these plotted points.

One (Earth) Year of Planet Four: Ridges

Today we have a guest blog by JPL research scientist Laura Kerber,  our lead researcher on Planet Four: Ridges. Laura studies  physical volcanology, aeolian geomorphology, wind over complex surfaces, and the ancient Martian climate.

Dear Ridge Hunters,

Can you believe that it has been a year since we started to hunt for ridges??? We have accomplished a great deal in the space of a year! With 7,784 volunteers, we have made 135,976 classifications! We finished our first region (parts of Deuteronilus Mensae), second region (Protonilus Mensae) and third region (Nili Fossae)! We are now working on our fourth batch of images—from a new region in Meridiani Planum, closer to the currently operating Opportunity rover. Mapping our first three regions allowed us to understand the distribution of Nili-like ridges close to two of the Mars2020 rover candidate landing sites, and allowed us to see what sorts of geologic units were associated with the ridges. We found out that the ridge-bearing units are often buried units, and that polygonal ridges were almost never found in glacial terrain. There also wasn’t a strong correlation between craters and ridge networks. There was a strong correlation, however, between ridge units and ancient terrain from Mars’ oldest geological period, the Noachian. As its name suggests, the Noachian was a time when water was abundant on the surface of Mars. Our ridge discoveries suggest that the subsurface was also the site of extensive water-related processes. Since the subsurface would have also been protected from harmful UV rays, this watery environment could have been an interesting place to foster life.

Here is a map showing the ridges that were known before this project (green) and the enormous number of ridges in fine detail that we mapped throughout Nili Fossae (red):

Picture1

But wait! There’s more! Intrepid ridge-hunter @bluemagi ventured outside of the Zooniverse-defined regions and is currently conducting a planet-wide search for more ridge-bearing regions. Here’s a map of the simply astonishing findings of @bluemagi across the rest of the planet (added in blue), which were transformed into an amazing .kmz file for Google Earth by @frognal! Check out their handiwork here and see if you agree with @bluemagi’s interpretations!

Picture2

Thanks everyone, for a year full of amazing surprises in Planet Four: Ridges. Here’s to another year of exploring the planet Mars together!

5 Earth Years of Planet Four

Today we have a post by Dr. Candice (Candy) Hansen, principal investigator (PI) of Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains. Dr. Hansen also serves as the Deputy Principal Investigator for HiRISE (the camera providing the images of spiders, fans, and blotches seen on the site). She is also a Co-Investigator on the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph on the Cassini spacecraft that orbited around Saturn until the end of its mission last year. Additionally she is a  member of the science team for the Juno mission to Jupiter. Dr. Hansen is responsible for the development and operation of  JunoCam, an outreach camera that will involve the public in planning images of Jupiter.

Last week marked the 5th anniversary of Planet Four’s launch. Five years ago,  I was sitting in a meeting only partly paying attention.  I was focused on the brand new Planet Four website – it had just gone live and took off like a rocket.  I kept hitting refresh, enjoying each of the new introductions in the “Hello Everyone!” chat.

Now we have a community.  When I lurk (which I still love to do) I recognize the names – Pete J, wassock, Kitharode, angi60, p.titchin, ….  My heartfelt thanks go to Meg Schwamb for engaging with our citizen scientists on a regular basis!

Five years on you have measured fans and blotches in over 5 million HiRISE image cutouts.  We’ve applied statistical analysis and turned that into a catalog.  We can now query the catalog (where is the longest fan?  Which way is the wind blowing in Manhattan at the beginning of spring?)   We are very close to submitting our first paper describing the catalog with samples of potential results that can be pulled from it.  The second paper is already shaping up with comprehensive results for wind directions throughout spring – these results are the gold we were hoping for when we started this citizen science project.  The vision we had in the beginning is now coming true.

Right now we use models to understand Mars’ meteorology.  In order to test the models we need data – wind markers.  The atmospheric modeling scientists are very excited about seeing our results – results we wouldn’t have without your efforts!  Thank you as always for your generosity with your time!!

 

More on Merdiani-type Polygonal Ridges

Today we have a guest blog by JPL research scientist Laura Kerber, one of  our lead researchers on Planet Four: Ridges .  Laura studies  physical volcanology, aeolian geomorphology, wind over complex surfaces, and the ancient Martian climate.

Merdiani-type Polygonal Ridges

 

Merdiani-type Polygonal Ridges

Hello Ridge Hunters!

We are nearing the end of the year on Earth, but we’re only in Martian month 4 on Mars (Solar Longitude = 99.2; Sol number = 214). But what a year on Earth it has been for Planet Four: Ridges. Since our launch on January 17th, thanks to 7,453 registered volunteers, we have retired 11,999 images! We have mapped ridges the length and breadth of the dichotomy boundary near Protonilus Mensae, Nilosyrtis Mensae, and Nili Fossae.

We are now moving into the strange and wondrous land of Sinus Meridiani, not too far from where the Opportunity Rover has been roving along at what might be the shore of a vast, ancient inland sea. The ridges in this new area are different—they are flat on top and splintered, and they can be dark or light compared to the background terrain. Instead of true polygons, they make broken circles. Take a look at the update tutorial to see examples of this new and strange type of ridge. By mapping ridges in Sinus Meridiani, we can compare and contrast them with their more northerly brothers, and determine why their morphologies are so different and what this meant for their environment and process of formation.

Happy Ridge Hunting, and if you find anything strange, let us know in the comments!

Planet Four: Ridges is Back

We’re thrilled to announce that Planet Four: Ridges is back. We’ve completed the Arabia Terra search for now, and today we’ve launched a new workflow to search for a different type of polygonal ridge that we’ve searched for previously. This new type of polygonal ridge is found in Sinus Meridiani,  a darker area of Mars located in the northern midlatitudes of  just south of the equator. You can see it’s located below Arabia Terra, the previous region we’ve been searching.

61c0fcbd-7c57-452b-9fff-f9fdae5bf651

Hubble Space Telescope Image of Mars. Arabia Terra is the large triangular shaped region in the center. Sinus Meridiani can be seen as the darker region below Arabia Terra. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and L. Frattare (STScI)

Meridiani-type polygonal ridges often look like broken spider webs or tattered lace. These ridges do not usually form neat boxy shapes, but they can be interconnected, looping, or branching. We need your help to identify these features, so that we can see if the Meridiani-type polygonal ridges follow the same trends we’re in seeing in the Arabia Terra polygonal ridges.

Meridiani-type Ridges in CTX subframes

We are continuing to work on analyzing and reducing the classifications from the Arabia Terra search. You can learn more about that in this previous blog post from Laura.

Dive back into Planet Four: Ridges today at http://ridges.planetfour.org

Planet Four at the Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting

The American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting was held last week in Provo, Utah. We presented results from Planet Four: Terrains, but it wasn’t the only Planet Four project represented. There was an update on Planet Four. Chase Hatcher attended the meeting ready to talk about Planet Four. Chase is, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and he spent this past summer working in Colorado with Anya and Michael on Planet Four analysis.

Chase presented a poster on his work at DPS as well as some of the other progress on the Planet Four data analysis we’ve made. Thanks Chase for all the hard work and for representing Planet Four. You can find Chase’s poster below.

 

 

Planet Four: Terrains at the Division for Planetary Sciences Conferences

 

Image credit: DPS/AAS/ https://dps.aas.org/

Greetings from Provo, Utah. I’m here to present science results on Planet Four: Terrains among other things.  The DPS is now trying out a new set of poster presentations using large touch screens, which they are calling iPosters. My abstract was selected for an iPoster. This means you can currently explore view and my iPoster online here. Enjoy!

Sagan Medal Public Talk at the Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting

This week I’m receiving the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Society’s Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science in part for my activities with Planet Four. You can read the citation here.

I want to thank the Planet Four team and the Zooniverse team for all that they do. The Planet Four projects really are a team effort. I also want to take a moment to recognize the nearly 200,000 volunteers who have contributed their time and energy to the Planet Four projects.  A little slice of this medal belongs to each and every one of you. I’ve been truly amazed what your combined effort has achieved, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Thank you for time and your contributions. We couldn’t do this without you.

It’s traditional for the Sagan Medal recipients to give a public talk one evening of the meeting. I just got back a little while ago from giving the public talk on Brigham Young University’s campus. This year there are two Sagan Medal recipients: myself and Henry Throop, so we each gave a half hour public talk. I decided to talk about Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains.

Last night, I recorded my practice run through of the talk so that I could share the talk with all of you. This very close to the version I gave tonight in Provo, Utah.

An Update on Planet Four: Ridges

Today we have a guest blog by JPL research scientist Laura Kerber, one of  our lead researchers on Planet Four: Ridges .  Laura studies  physical volcanology, aeolian geomorphology, wind over complex surfaces, and the ancient Martian climate.

Hello Ridge Hunters!

Thanks to you, we have mapped ridges all over Nili Fossae and Nilosyrtis Mensae!!

As you might remember, our ultimate goal was to determine the distribution of ridges so that we could see if they were correlated with any other types of interesting features, like valley networks, clay or chlorite detections, or even just with the dichotomy boundary itself, which could have aligned with the edge of an ancient ocean. Since I have found polygonal ridge networks in other places near the dichotomy boundary, I was thinking that there might be a relationship between the hypothetical ancient ocean and the ridge networks. Indeed, there are many polygonal networks in shallow marine environments on the Earth, thought to be due to shrinking that happens when water is forced out of clay layers as they are pressed. Thanks to your efforts, we discovered that the Nili ridges are very localized along the dichotomy boundary, crowded into Nilosyrtis Mensae, Nili Fossae, and Antoniadi crater, but missing in Protonilus Mensae and further west along the dichotomy boundary. These means that something special must have been going on close to Nili Fossae. It could be that the ridges were only forming in this region, or perhaps we see a deeper exposure of the subsurface here, which allows the ridges to be exposed. One intriguing possibility is that the presence of the ridges is related to the availability of carbonate, which is a common ridge-forming substance in some terrestrial deserts (in the form of the mineral calcite). The Nili Fossae region is one of the only regions on Mars where lots of evidence for carbonate minerals has been found. Perhaps ground water circulation through fractures was happening all across Mars, but only in the area where there was CaCO3 in the water could the mineralization of these fractures take place. WE DON’T KNOW!

The next step for us to take is to study all of the great examples that you have found and to tie them to their geological context, both in terms of where they are with respect to the dichotomy boundary, but also how they relate to #darklines, glaciers, and other interesting things in the area. (I think I’ve seen enough of the area by now to say that they don’t seem to be related to glaciers).

I have been working with Meg over the last couple of weeks to get all of the data that you have collected into a usable format so that we can start to write the paper. The actual writing process will take a number of months.

Meanwhile, we decided to expand our search to a slightly different part of the Arabia region—Meridiani Planum.

 

Here is a map showing roughly where we have been looking (jagged gray area with a black background) in the context of the broader Arabia area. Arabia is an interesting place because it is very dusty (making it hard to see what minerals are there) and it has an unusual chemical signature (it has elevated hydrogen compared to other nearby places). The white area is where I have previously found ridges in Meridiani Planum (and the center of where we will be looking next).

If you think you spy a crater whose name sounds familiar, it could be because we’re getting closer to the territory that Mark Watney traversed in Andy Weir’s The Martian.

[Spoiler Alert]: In the book, Mark Watney has to traverse from the northern plains through Mawrth Valles (another popular landing site candidate!) to get to Schiaparelli Crater. You can chart his course here on this cool fan-made website: http://www.cannonade.net/mars.php#map

In 2004, the Opportunity Rover landed in Meridiani Planum. Its landing site was a wide, flat plain. In the 13 years since its landing, Opportunity has made some amazing discoveries, including the discovery of sedimentary rocks emplaced and modified by water, evidence that Opportunity’s landing site was close to the shoreline of an ancient, salty, shallow body of water. To the north of Opportunity’s landing site, Meridiani Planum becomes much less “plain-like”. Instead, it devolves into a tangle of arcuate, intersecting ridges.  While it would be a nightmare for a small rover (or Mark Watney) to traverse, this kind of bizarre geomorphology is fascinating from a geological point of view. In particular, these ridge patterns are similar in shape and morphology to some of those shallow marine polygonal networks that I was looking for along the dichotomy boundary. On Earth, one such polygonal network can be seen an ancient shallow marine environment now exposed in Egypt’s white desert. The desert is white because of the expose chalk formations, and the entire area is criss-crossed with veins full of calcite and hematite.

 

The Meridiani ridges are similar to the ridges that we have been finding so far in that they are intersecting, but those of you who have been with the project for a while will see immediately how different they look.

While the Nili ridges were rather narrow, discrete, angular, and polygonal, the Merdiani ridges are feathered, arcuate, varying in width, and flat-topped. They also seem to merge together in multiple areas, like in this image, where there seems to discrete ridges but also amalgamations of ridges that form a kind of mesa.

 

The other strange thing about the Meridiani ridges is that they are not always the same color. For the most part, the ridge-forming unit is white and the background plain is dark, but sometimes it looks like the opposite, as in the above image.

We will keep you updated as work progresses on the first paper. Meanwhile, we will work on getting you some images of Meridiani Planum to map!

If you are bored while you are waiting, try looking along the dichotomy boundary the other direction… around the Isidis Basin and into Nepenthes Mensae. Maybe the ridges appear on either side of the Isidis Basin, and represent circulation of groundwater caused by the remnant heat of the Isidis impact……