Over the past couple of days, I’ve started looking at the Planet Four: Terrains classifications data. I’ll be looking at how best to combine the assessments to identify the different terrains, but for now I’m taking a preliminary look at the raw data. I tallied up the votes for each of the images we’ve shown on the site that have been completed (have had at least 20 independent reviews). Perusing the results I have found some nice examples that I thought I’d share below.
Swiss Cheese Terrain
You can also find more examples on our Site Guide.
Today we have a post from Gauri Sharma who is working on Planet Four this summer as part of the ASIAA Summer Student Program. Today Gauri gives an all overview of her project and the seasonal processes on Mars’ south pole.
My project is on “seasonal processes and wind direction on Mars south pole”, I read about how seasons and winds really taking part on the surface and inside atmosphere of Mars. So, I am gonna introduce you some of the features found on Mars’ South Pole and tools used to study these features. I will also tell quick logical science behind those features according my research in these last two months.
Currently the rotational period and seasonal cycle on Mars are similar to the Earth, as is the tilt causes the seasons, But scientists do not measures year for Mars in days or month as we measures on Earth. Its calculated by Solar longitude (Ls), when Ls = 180 there is first day of spring on south pole, It’s known as “Martian vernal” equinox too. The seasons on Mars differ from those on Earth, as the atmosphere is much thinner and compromised primarily of carbon dioxide. When winter season comes, one of the poles is fully in darkness and temperatures get low enough that-out 25-30% of atmosphere snows out as carbon dioxide (CO2) ice slabs forming polar ice caps.
During the winter on South pole a, CO2 ice slab forms over the pole is nearly translucent and ~1m thick. When the ice slab forms, it comprises of frozen carbon dioxide and dust and dirt from the atmosphere. Below the ice sheet is layer of dust and dirt. When the spring comes sunlight penetrates the CO2 ice slab, and the base of the ice cap gets heated. The temperature of the ice at the base increases causes CO2 sublimation. The temperature on Mars south pole in spring is -78 °C (351K) but dry CO2 triple point is on 7 pascal and -53°C (220 K), So According to thermodynamics when temperature and pressure of any substance is above the triple point sublimation takes place). Sublimation of CO2 creates a trapped pressurized gas bubble beneath the ice layers, These beneath pressurized gas bubbles continuously pushes the upper layers of ice and at one point ice slabs get crack and pressurized gases vent out. A jet like eruption or geyser takes place. It is thought that material (dirt and dust) from below the ice sheet which has been captured by pressurized gas is brought up the surface of the ice sheet and is blown by the surface wind into a fan shape. When the wind is not strong enough or not blowing, the material is thought to deposit around the geyser source like spot or blotch on the surface At the end of the summer, the ice is gone the fan’s material disappears and blends back in with surface remaining.
Also during the spring and summer when the geysers are active, the trapped carbon dioxide gas before it breaks out from under the ice sheet is though to slowly remove material and carve channels in the dirt surface. In the mid summer when CO2 fully get vaporized channels are empty cracks. This is annual process of over time produces erosion on surface and channel network looks like spiders (or their official name araneiform).
In every spring and summer season, hundreds of thousands of fans wax and wanes on the Martian South Pole. These features have been captured by then HiRISE camera. During analyzing of these images, scientists found difficulties, Automated computer routines have not been able to accurately identify and outline the individual feature. But scientists thought a human eye eventually can distinguish and outline these features and shape them. So, A group of scientists created Planet four website purposefully for research on Mars by public help. On this website scientists provides HiRISE images in the form of subimages or what we call tiles. A HiRISE image is ~20,000 × 126,000 pixels and each pixel covers ~0.3m surface of Mars. The image is big so that HiRISE images are diced into tiles that are shown on the Planet Four website. Working with Planet Four is very easy, just sign up in Planet Four website and take in part of classify shapes on surface. Before getting started they provides a short intro to let you know “How to mark, and useful tools to classify features”. Volunteer classification are collected together and researchers combines these classifications (markings), and they found these markings produces an extremely reliable, fruitful results about features founds on Mars surface.
For my project Planet Four was one of the most important tool. I use Planet Four tiles to examine boulders. Boulders are one of the more interesting objects on Mars surface, and in the South Pole regions monitored by HiRISE only one area seems to have boulders. This region has been dubbed ‘Inca City.’ The boulders in Inca City are likely impact produced. Boulders are Interesting because we think they can help be a heat source of geysers formation. I am looking at how fans are associated with boulders more often than not and has been captured by HiRISE. I studied how surrounding of boulders changes time by time, are they really takes part as the source of geyser formation”.
I will talk about the rest of my analysis in next blog post. Till then bye…
While classifying on Planet Four: Terrains images you might have seen images like these:
These banded layers are part of what is known as the South Polar Layered Deposits (SPLD) (an equivalent version exists on the North Pole of Mars as well). There is dust and water ice composing these layers. The SPLD has been measured to have a height of ~4 km and covering a surface area of ~90,000 square kilometers. Unlike the temporary seasonal ice cap which is comprised of carbon dioxide, the 1.6 million cubic kilometer SPLD is mainly water ice mixed with dust comprising on the order of 10% volume of the entire structure. Above this SPLD sits the very thin temporary (1-10 m) cap of amount of carbon dioxide ice/frost that snows out in the winter and sublimates over the spring and summer seasons. In 2011, it was discovered by radar sounding that although the structure is mainly water ice and dust there is a buried reservoir of carbon dioxide ice within a section of the SPLD, with a volume of 9500 to 12,500 cubic kilometers. If this frozen gas was exposed and released in contact with the current Martian atmosphere, the atmosphere would almost double in its inventory of carbon dioxide by mass.
How the SPLD layers are exactly deposited and whether there are new layers actively forming are open questions. The exact age of the SPLD is unknown. We know there is a heavily cratered terrain that covers much of the Southern hemisphere, but there are relatively few craters on the actual surface of the SPLD. This suggests that the top of the SPLD is about 10 million years in age, relatively a youngster in terms of geological time scales. The fact there is banding indicates the existence of a repetitive cycle that built up the SPLD and its northern equivalent over time. The darkness and thickness of the banding is thought to be controlled by the amount of dust present in Mars’ atmosphere (and likely by the past frequency of global Martian dust storms). The SPLD then likely represents a locked away record of the Martian atmosphere at the time of deposition, showing how dusty the atmosphere was compared to the water vapor present. If we can understand the formation mechanism, then we would be able to read this natural historical record.
One other important thing about Mars is that without a large moon like the Earth has, Mars’ axial tilt swings significantly over time up to ~60 degree obliquity, which can put the poles in significant light and darkness. This giant swings in axial tilt (as well as other orbital properties occur in cycles known as Milankovitch cycles). The increased summer and longer winters likely impact dust storms and the formation of the SPLD, but what role it plays is still an active area of study.
The extent of the SPLD has been mapped both with ice penetrating radar and a laser altimeter aboard orbiting spacecraft , so that is why it is not list as of one of the categories to select on Planet Four: Terrains. While we’re not asking you to identify the Solar Polar Layered Deposits in the classification interface, if you’re interested in identifying them in the CTX images you can add a hashtag in Planet Four Terrains: Talk (we recommend #spld ) or you can make a collection of those images.
Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the launch of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Strapped to an Atlas V rocket, the spacecraft was sent it on its way from Cape Canaveral Florida to its ultimate destination, the Red Planet. Ever since its arrival after a 7 month journey and orbit insertion in March 2007, the orbiter and the HiRISE camera have been instrumental for larger and ever more sophisticated robot rovers and landers being sent to explore Mars. Equipped with the Context Camera (CTX) and the HiRISE camera among other instruments, MRO has been watching how the planet has changed for nearly 10 Earth years. I can remember in 2008, the PI of Planet Four, Candy Hansen, showing me some of the first images taken of the South Pole by HiRISE. It’s amazing to think that the instruments are still doing cutting edge science and producing a long term dataset that enable scientists and the public to get a birds eye view of the Martian surface and see how it is changing over time.
This has been especially true for the seasonal processes campaign which focuses in large part on HiRISE imaging of the fans and spiders on the South Pole of Mars. We present you those images on the Planet Four website in order to map the dark fans and blotches and see how their appearance and location on the Sole Pole change over a season and over the 5 Martian years. Your efforts on Planet Four are important in our quest to understand the Red Planet.As a way to give back and say thanks for your time and effort marking fans and blotches, we’re setting up a giveaway to mark this MRO anniversary. Starting on this coming Sunday (August 16, 2015) for the next four weeks, we’ll be giving away some lovely HiRISE stickers (thanks to our friends the HIRISE team) and Zooniverse stickers (thanks to the Zooniverse team) that are perfect for a laptop, tablet, suitcase, or any surface a Planet Four Mars Explorer wants to proudly display their love for Mars, HIRISE and the Zooniverse.
How does this work? Getting registered for the draw is super easy, all you need to do is keep doing what you normally do. Log in with your Zooniverse account and classify on the original Planet Four website each week for the next four weeks. By classifying, you’ll be entered in the weekly draw. You’ll be contacted using the email address we have on file with your Zooniverse account. Make sure to check that your contact information is update in your Zooniverse profile (go to http://www.zooniverse.org log in and click on the top right icon by your username. On the drop down menu that will appear click on Settings. Then click on the Email tab on the Settings page)
Good luck and in the meantime if you have a spare moment or two, help celebrate the accomplishments of MRO and HiRISE today by reviewing the first year images of Ithaca today at http://www.planetfour.org
Today we have a guest post from Andy Martin, one of our dedicated Planet Four Talk moderators, who attended ZooCon 2015 in Oxford, UK on July 11th. In a previous life as a chartered chemist, Andy tested the air at the House of Commons, assessed the quality of food, water and nuclear fuel testing, and worked on standards for breathalysers and dairy farm milking parlours. He now runs a campsite in Cornwall where there are lots more stars to stargaze at in the night sky than there were inside the M25. The photos accompanying the blog come from Planet Four volunteer Pete Jalowiczor. Pete has a background in Astrophysics; he was one of Prof. David Hughes’ Postgraduate students at the University of Sheffield, UK in the early ’90s researching Halley’s comet. He currently works in education assisting students in Further and Higher Education with learning difficulties.
And so to Oxford for Zoocon 2015, ably led by our master of ceremonies Grant Miller. The days events are available to view (the video of the talks can be found here) at so I’ll stick to a few highlights rather than provide minutes on the meeting.
First up Becky Smethurst gave an up date on Snapshot Supernova which ran earlier this year in association with the BBC and Stargazing Live. The project had been a great success and have caught 5 supernovas in the act of going bang. Whilst the supernovas were the stuff of “proper big science” Becky was just as pleased with the results of the group photo experiment to image Orion This saw images of Orion taken by the public combined to provide a stunning image of the constellation, which you can see here data.zooniverse.org/orion/all_stack_wide_step_number_1567 (NB I found this with some difficulty, the beeb websites just loop when you start looking)
Ali Swanson next, all about Snapshot Serengeti which, amongst the delegates at least, seems to be a bit of a Marmite group, but everyone seems to have had a go, love it or hate it. The project has produced a paper and all the data collected to date has been made freely available to all, that’s around 1.2 million photos.
Victoria Van Hyning gave an interesting presentation on the humanities led projects which mainly center on the transcription of historical documents. You may already be aware of the War Diaries and sea logs projects but did you know you could help to transcribe ancient documents written in Greek (no ability to actually understand Grek required) via the Ancient Lives project. Another project that I wasn’t aware of, but will be on the lust when I get some time, is Science Gossip. This involves a variety of scientific documents like the lab books and journals of working scientists.
Alissa Bans and Disk Detectives are identifying stars with disks around them where planets may be forming; YSO’s or Young Stellar Objects. So far around 700 disk candidates have been identified some around close to home stars such as Vega.
Tom Hart has a cool job in more ways than one, he looks after Penguin Watch which monitors penguin populations using both satellite imaging and trail cameras similar to those used for Snapshot Serengeti. Because of the extreme weather conditions and remoteness of the locations the team are working on cameras which will be able to stay in the field for up to 10 years without being touched. The project has already seen some success in getting fishing restrictions imposed to protect penguin populations.
Zooniverse Past and Future ran over what’s been happening in the Zooniverse and what may yet come to pass. There has been a paper published discussing ideas for citizen science in astronomy and the recent Earthquakes in Nepal saw the power of the Zooniverse used to identify areas where aid was needed but not being delivered, literally because the places affected were not on the map.
And finally back to Grant with what I think is the most exciting development for the Zooniverse yet. The new platform enables anyone to set up and manage Zooniverse project of their very own. To show how easy this was Grant set up a project to identify attendees at ZooCon15 from photographs and measure the size of their smile. This he did in a couple of hours whilst the talks were going on. To find out more log on to the Zooniverse and look for the Build a project’ button top right.All I need now is a huge pile of data to analyse.
And thence to the pub to renew aquantancies and make friends anew. Sadly the mild ran out early on but those who dined found their meals accompanied by designer new potatoes, purple all the way through, which tasted……just like potatoes.
Today we have a guest post Dr. Nicholas G. Heavens. He is a Research Assistant Professor of Planetary Science at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. He studies the weather of present day Mars, the climate of late Paleozoic Earth, and the atmospheric evolution of Earth-like planets outside the Solar System. He is a member of the Mars Climate Sounder science team.
Dear Explorers of the Fourth Planet,
Chances are, at some point, you have found yourself by a still body of water on a rainy day. Entranced by the smooth surface of this lake or pond, you began to feel the rain fall on your head and shoulders. And as the rain fell on the water, you noticed circular ripples radiating out from each raindrop and moving toward the shore.
Those ripples are a particularly beautiful and elegant example of a type of wave known as a gravity wave (or sometimes buoyancy wave). The raindrop’s impact depresses the surface of the water, upsetting the balance between the force of gravity and the pressure exerted by the water. Water then moves into the hole to restore this balance, creating a further imbalance that spreads the energy of the impact (but not the water itself) outward as circular rings.
Gravity waves in water are a familiar sight in our everyday lives, but gravity waves are common in atmospheres as well, including Mars’s. On average, gravity and air pressure in Mars’s atmosphere are in balance, meaning that less dense air is higher in the atmosphere than more dense air. However, in some situations, denser air can be forced over less dense air, resulting in gravity waves that can propagate to higher altitudes and grow in amplitude as they do so. Some of those waves can be quite inconvenient, since they make up much of aircraft turbulence.
When you look at Planet Four images, you stare at high-resolution, mostly cloudless images of Mars near its poles. What I want to show you today is what might be happening in the atmosphere above, as seen in cloudy, low-resolution images of Mars. It is common to see visible indications of gravity waves in the winter hemisphere around 45 degrees south, but gravity waves are likely active at other times and places.
In the first image, do you see circular, whitish ripples near the center of the image? Something analogous to raindrops dropping in a pond has happened there. In the parts of the waves that correspond to rising air, water vapor is cooled and condenses into ice to clouds that trace out the waves.
In the second image, the wave fronts are not strongly curved and appear to be radiating in one direction, probably indicating that a strong wind is affecting the waves. In each case, the wavelength of the waves can be easily measured, around 40 km in the first case and around 20 km in the second case. The source of the first set of waves is unclear (at least to me). The source of the second set of waves is probably the interaction of dense cold air from the pole moving over less dense warmer air at lower latitudes. In some images, the source of the waves can be traced to wind dropping down into a crater.
Studying gravity waves can tell us much about how Mars’s atmosphere works from bottom to top. Future Martian glider pilots also might appreciate knowing when they occur and the conditions they will create. But I will admit that my interest in Mars’s atmospheric gravity waves continues to be fed by the disturbing beauty they bring to Mars’s thin atmosphere.
ASIAA, my institute in Taiwan had its 5 year external review where a panel of experts in the field from outside the institute come in and give a critique and highlight both the positive things that are going well and also the potential areas to be strengthened. At this review there was a poster session for postdocs and other researchers to present their projects. Last week was the poster session. I gave an update on Planet Four and presented Planet Four: Terrains. I thought I’d share (typos and all) the poster with you. You might find that some of the figures are familiar and that you’ve seen them on this very blog in one form or another.
So the second week has passed in the ASIAA Summer program. I would like to call this week “coding with loading.” This past week, I played with python. Don’t be scared, I will reiterate for you again it is not a snake, it’s a kind of language like java, C, C++ etc.
As the week was running likewise my work was also running. On the 3rd day of week, my supervisor said “let’s go and have some drink”. It sounds so awesome right!, I was thinking: ” Yipee! I am going to spend some time with my supervisor “. But beside all this imagination, I am gonna tell you truth. No doubt that was the wow time but along with that I got full week tasks. And finally I got all those tasks, that what I wanted to get completed. This is called ‘loading.’ Now time to talk about coding…
On 17 July, again meeting with Meg, and fully working on debugging my code. Oh! My God, my code!! full of errors. She spent almost 2 hours with me. In between more than two time My Mind said: ” Gauri Sharma you gone, she is gonna kick you in few mins, you wasted this much of her time”. I was literally soo scared. But we got through the debugging (and she didn’t kick me).
Before I tell, what’s the use of my code. I would like to let you know some key points like HiRISE image and Planet Four images. HiRISE images: High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) is a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter , which allows it to take pictures of Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel. So that, image is so big that HiRISE images are diced into tiles (Planet Four images) that are shown on the Planet Four website that you classify. Right now, I am working to correlate Planet Four images to full HiRISE images, so I can easily find out a particular interesting area in the larger HiRISE image. So now I can tell you, my code works by converting Planet Four image (x, y) position into HiRISE_image (x, y) pixel position.
There is a happy ending, my first master code is working. And as usual Meg always makes me happy and her line ” you are making progress ” always left a pretty smile on my face and helps me keep calm and cool in such a HOT Summer of Taipei.
Then, I moved forwarded for new task, I got in my loading season .This new code has taken much more time then expected, but it is finally done. It works by “converting corners of Planet Four image (x, y) position into corners of HiRISE image (x, y) pixel position. So on Monday, I am ready with my second master code. I gather so much python tricks, finally I am enjoying with them. One thing , I would like to say for coding, “its awesome!, its kind of magic!!!!”
That’s all for this week. See you next week.
With our new addition Planet Four: Terrains, we need your help to review CTX (Context Camera) images and identify ‘spiders’ (radially organized channels carved in the surface), craters, pitted sheets of carbon dioxide ice nicknamed Swiss Cheese Terrain, and channel networks carved by carbon dioxide gas trapped below the thawing ice sheet and also by the freezing and thawing of water ice permafrost.
The CTX images are of the South Pole, but you might be wondering where exactly we’re looking. One of the main aims of Planet Four: Terrains is to identify new areas of interest to point HiRISE, the higher resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. CTX is named the Context Camera because it provides the larger picture or context for HiRISE’s detailed but narrow image swaths. Anya’s gone in to more detail about this, so check out her blog to learn more.
To find new areas of interest, for Planet Four: Terrains we wanted to extend beyond the regions we know have spiders because they’ve been imaged by HiRISE during the seasonal processes campaign. To give you some sense, here are the regions targeted by HiRISE that are currently uploaded in the Planet Four database. This compromises all imaged locations from Seasons 1,2,3 and Manhattan Season 4 and Inca City Season 4 and a small part of 5.
For picking the first set of CTX images, I went through and found what we think are ice free images from the end of Summer and early Fall, and selected as much of a random uniformly distributed sample south of -75 degree latitude. The reason we didn’t want ice if possible is that if there’s ice, there’s a chance for carbon dioxide geysers and fans (the ones we ask you to mark on the original Planet Four). The fans would block you from seeing surface features in the ground below them.
Above are plotted the locations of the full frame CTX images used to make the subframes that you see on Planet Four: Terrains (Note: we cut up the CTX images into 800 x 600, width x height, pixel images). We currently have a random third of this set live on the site. We’ll be add the remaining subimages to the site over the next month or so.
For comparison, here again the previous HiRISE seasonal monitoring images locations uploaded on the original Planet Four, plotted on the same scale as the CTX plot above.
As you can see most of the HiRISE images from the seasonal monitoring campaign are focused south of -80 degrees. As you can see , we’re looking at much more of the Martian South Pole with Planet Four: Terrains. Soon the South pole will be in darkness again, and the temporary carbon dioxide cap will start growing again. Our hope is that we can have these images reviewed before the start of the Spring on the South Pole to add new locations to the target list for Season 6 of the HiRISE monitoring campaign that starts around July 2016.
Check out Planet Four: Terrains, and classify an image or two today at http://terrains.planetfour.org
As a part of my summer project , I am planning to write a blog weekly. Today is 13/07/2015. So I have completed 13 days in ASIAA and 15 days in Taipei, Taiwan. Taipei is beautiful and my surroundings are just wow. Humans in Taipei are so nice, although we don’t understand each other languages we still try to help each other with a friendly face. All this made me feel at home here.
Now it’s time to tell you something about my research at ASIAA. I am working with Meg Schwamb on ” Exploring the Seasonal Processes and Wind Directions of Mars’ South Pole. ” This project title itself creates excitement in my full body. I am looking at how fans evolve by boulders. i am possibly exploring how fan direction changes over time for few locations on south pole.
In this project, I have to write a toolkit to be able to analyze markings coming from Planet Four (P4). I am writing a code right now to be able to do that.I am going to look evolution of fans near boulders in some of the Planet Four images. For all this purpose, my first task is to deal with huge database of P4, and write a code that can transform x_tile and y_tile of P4 to x,y position of HiRISE image. Slowly slowly I learned the basics of MySQL (a kind of database), and I am still learning. I started coding in python (coding language like C) . I wrote my first python code for my project on the 9th day. I am writing and rewriting codes from morning til night. Meg says I am making progress and that make me happy at the end of my day.
This is my first real time project focused on Mars. On first few days, I was like… How to do this ? I was not getting anything. But then my supervisor made me calm and then I started getting confidence. My supervisor says learning everyday is itself research, so don’t feel bad if you are not reaching a conclusion every day. Just keep trying towards the conclusion,,, “THAT IS RESEARCH”. So, the more we know, the more we grow.
See you next week