Our beloved PlanetFour citizen scientists have created a wealth of data that we are currently digging through. Each PlanetFour image tile is currently being retired after 30 randomly selected citizens pressed the ‘Submit’ button on it. Now, we obviously have to create software to analyze the millions of responses we have collected from the citizen scientists, and sometimes objects in the image are close to each other, just like in the lower right corner of Figure 1.
And, naturally, everybody’s response to what can be seen in this HiRISE image is slightly different, but fret not: this is what we want! Because the “wisdom of the crowd effect” entails that the mean value of many answers are very very close to the real answer. See Figure 2 below for an example of the markings we have received.
Note the amount of markings in the lower right, covering both individual fans that are visible in Figure 1. It is understandable that the software analyzing these markings needs to be able to distinguish what a marking was for, what visual object in the image was meant to be marked by the individual Citizen scientists. And I admit, looking at this kind of overwhelming data, I was a bit skeptical that it can be done. Which would still be fine, because one of our main goals is wind directions to be determined and as long as every subframe results in the indication of a wind direction, we have learned A LOT! But if we can disentangle these markings to show us individual fans, we could even learn more: We can count the amount of activity per image more precisely, to learn how ‘active’ this area is. And we even can learn about changes of wind direction happening, if at the same source of activity two different wind directions can be distinguished. For that, we need to be able to separate these markings as good as possible.
And we are very glad to tell you that that indeed seems possible, using modern data analysis techniques called “clustering” that looks at relationships between data points and how they can be combined into more meaningful statements. Specifically, we are using the so called “DBSCAN” clustering algorithm (LINK), which allows us to choose the number of markings required to be defined a cluster family and the maximum of distance allowed for a different marking before being ‘rejected’ from that cluster family. Once the cluster members have been determined, simple mean values of all marking parameters are taken to determine the resulting marking, and Figure 3 shows the results of that.
Just look at how beautifully the clustering has merged all the markings into results have combined all the markings into data that very precisely resembles what can be seen in the original data! The two fans in the lower right have been identified with stunning precision!
For an even more impressive display of this, have a look at the animated GIF below that allows you to track the visible fans, how they are being marked and how these markings are combined in a very precise representation of the object on the ground. It’s marvelous and I’m simply blown away by the quality of the data that we have received and how well this works!
This is not meant to say though that all is peachy and we can sit back and push some buttons to get these nice results. Sometimes they don’t look as nice as these, and we need to carefully balance the amount of work we invest into fixing those because we need to get the publication out into the world, so that all the Citizen scientists can see the fruit of their labor! And sometimes it’s not even clear to us if what we see is a fan or a blotch, but that distinction is of course only a mental help for the fact if there was wind blowing at the time of a CO2 gas eruption or not. So we have some ideas how to deal with those situations and that is one of the final things we are working on before submitting the paper. We are very close so please stay tuned and keep submitting these kind of stunningly precise markings!
For your viewing pleasure I finish with another example of how nicely the clustering algorithm works to create final markings for a PlanetFour image:
In the UK, tonight starts the latest installment of BBC Stargazing Live. Three nights of live astronomy television hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Dara Ó Briain. Just over two years ago, we were preparing for the launch of the Planet Four live on television as part of Stargazing Live. Professor Chris Lintott from the BBC’s Sky at Night and PI of the Zooniverse went out on the program broadcast live from Jodrell Bank and introduced to the world Planet Four, asking for viewers help to map the seasonal fan and blotches visible in images of the Martian South Pole taken by the HiRISE camera.
For the past 9 years, the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been capturing stunning and dynamic images of the defrosting South Pole. During this time, carbon dioxide geysers loft dust and dirt through cracks in a thawing carbon dioxide ice sheet to the surface where it is believed that surface winds subsequently sculpt the material into dark fans observed from orbit. 30% of Mars’ atmosphere condenses out to form this ice sheet. Understanding the direction, frequency, and appearance of these fans (a proxy for the geysers) and how these properties are impacted by varying factors we can better understand the Martian climate and how it differs from Earth.
This is a project that we truly couldn’t do with out the help of citizen scientists and BBC Stargazing Live. Hundreds of thousands of fans are visible in HiRISE observations, but for years this rich dataset was not tapped to its full potential. Automated computer algorithms have not been able to accurately identify and outline individual fans in the HiRISE images, but a human being intuitively can distinguish and outline these features. And thus Planet Four was born.
I can remember launch day like it was yesterday, waiting on the Talk Discussion tool for the flood of volunteers to start posting questions and sharing their thoughts and ideas about the images they were seeing. I and the rest of the Planet Four team anxiously waiting at our keyboards could tell immediately when the Planet Four segment aired. The response from Stargazing was incredible and overwhelming. Each night, the Zooniverse servers struggled to keep up serving images of Mars as the number of people on the site continued to rise. Thanks to the Stargazing Live viewers we were able to complete nearly all of the Season 2 and Season 3 HiIRSE monitoring campaign images.
So where are we now? Thanks to help of Planet Four volunteers including Stargazing Live viewers, we’ve made great progress since January 8, 2013. Over 4.6 million blotches and 3.8 million fans have been drawn to date (the great majority of these markings were made during BBC Stargazing Live). In the past two years, Planet Four has captured the equivalent of a full year of non-stop human attention (a single person working non-stop/no breaks for an entire year!). The science team has been working to create a software pipeline to combine the multiple classifications to identify fans and blotches. We have also been working to create an expert dataset classified by the science team for a very small subset of Planet Four images to compare to the volunteer classifications to show that Planet Four citizen scientists are very efficient and effective at detecting the seasonal fans and blotches in the HiRISE images.
I’m pleased to say the science team is very close to submitting the project’s first science paper to a journal before the end of the year (we’re aiming for end of Spring/Summer). We have more than half of the paper draft currently written. One of the last lines of the paper is: ‘We thank all those involved in BBC Stargazing Live 2013.’ This is just the beginning. With this paper, we’ll be able to eventually produce the largest areal coverage wind measurement of the Martian surface to date spanning two Martian years. These maps will reveal how the fan properties and numbers change from Martian year to year and location to location on the South Pole. We also have 3 more Martian seasons of HiRISE data that we’ve just barely scratched the surface of. The majority of these images have yet to be classified, including right before a Martian dust storm, so we can see how the dust storm has impacted the Martian climate and how long its effects last in the atmosphere and the ice sheet by looking at the fans and geysers that are created in the seasons before and after the storm
This year the Zooniverse has something new up their sleeve that will be revealed during the broadcast, but while you’re waiting for the return of BBC Stargazing tonight, if you can spare a minute or two , we could use your continued help mapping the seasonal fans visible in the HiRISE images. There is so much of the South Pole (and 3 additional years of data to get through) that we have yet to study and explore! Classify a HiRISE tile or two at http://www.planetfour.org
Good news: our wonderful development team has added new feature that many of our volunteers have asked for! Now you can see north azimuth, sub-solar azimuth, phase angle, and emission angle on the Talk pages directly. You can see an example here. These angles give you information about how HiRISE took the image and where the Sun was at that moment.
To understand what those angles are, here is an illustration for you:
You see how the MRO spacecraft flies over the surface while HiRISE makes an image. The Sun illuminates the surface .
Consider a point on the martian surface P.
Emission angle: HiRISE does not necessarily look at point P straight down, i.e. the line connecting point P and HiRISE has some deviation from vertical line – it is noted as angle e on the sketch. This is emission angle. It tells you much we tilted spacecraft to the side to make the image.
Phase angle: Because all the images you see in our project is from polar areas, the Sun is often low in the sky when HiRISE observes. To get an idea on how low, we use phase angle – it is the angle between the line from Sun to the point P and line from point P to the HiRISE. It is noted φ in the sketch. The larger phase angle is, the lower the Sun in the sky, the longer are the shadows on the surface.
Sub-solar azimuth: To understand what is the direction towards the Sun in the frame of HiRISE image, we use sub-solar azimuth. In any frame that you see on our project it is an angle between horizontal line from the center of the frame towards right and the Sun direction. It is counted clock-wise. The notation for it in the sketch is a.
North azimuth: The orbit of MRO spacecraft defines orientations of HiRISE images. North azimuth tells us direction to the Martian north pole. In the frame of an image it’s counted same as sub-solar azimuth, i.e. from the horizontal line connecting center of the frame and its right edge in the clock-wise direction.
I hope this helps you enjoy exploring Mars with HiRISE!
It is really-really tough to get funding to do research. You have to have an idea to do something really new and important, something that will be interesting and useful. You need to gather a team that can do it. Then you have to write a proposal to explain your idea and to convince other scientists that this project is worth pursuing. And you’ll be competing with other projects for the limited budget pot. It was even tougher than usual this year for planetary research at NASA: only 14% of all submitted projects got funding.
But we did!
A little project that utilizes the data from Planet Four will be funded by NASA so that we can compare directions of winds mapped by our citizen scientists (via fans, of course!) to the prediction of martian climate models!
This is so very exciting!
We have a great team here and I am convinced this project will be a great success! Thanks NASA and thanks all of our helpers on planet4!
I’m a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA) in a Taipei, Taiwan. As part of the 2015 ASIAA Summer Student Program, we’re looking for an undergraduate student to come to Taipei for the summer, from July 1st-August 28th, to work on Planet Four related research.
Last year, Chuhong Mai participated in the program and helped get the map project information we need to make the final catalogs for the first Planet Four paper. As a result of her efforts last summer, Chuhong is going to be co-author on the paper. You can learn more about her experience at ASIAA and as part of the summer program here.
ASIAA operates in English, and all research will be conducted in English. The description of this year’s project can be found here. The aim will be help develop tools to look at wind directions based on the Planet Four fan markings for one of the HiRISE targeted regions (likely Inca City or Manhattan) and see how fan directions change from year to year. Details about the Summer Student Program including rules and restrictions can be found here.
Applications are due before March 20th. If you have questions or if you would like to know more, you can contact me via email at mschwamb AT asiaa.sinica.edu.tw
As many of you know, I’m currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica in Taiwan. For the past year and half I’ve spent most of my time living and working in Taipei. Right now in China and Taiwan, as well as some other places around globe, people are celebrating the Chinese New Year (often referred to as the Spring Festival ), which is based on the lunar calendar. The celebration lasts in total 15 days, and it’s a time people gather and celebrate with family. Chinese New Year is in full swing, and as I’m writing this I can hear some fireworks being set off in the distance.
As part of the festivities, ASIAA created a New Year’s greeting card. The director of ASIAA asked for images and figures representing the range of research going on at the institute to use on the card. I send in images from Planet Four selected with some help from Planet Four Talk, and the images made the cut. Can you spot the two below?
For those celebrating, we wish you a Happy Chinese New Year and a happy and healthy year of the ram.
Okay, so this is not your typical view of Mars. You’re used to the HiRiSE images we show on the site, but the above figure is Mars too. We’ll it’s a spectrum of the upper atmosphere taken by some of the Galaxy Zoo lot , a little over a week ago. I’m collaborating wit them to look at a sample of blue elliptical galaxies in the submillimeter using the aptly named Caltech Submillimeter Observatory (CSO) equipped with the Leighton telescope. It’s a 10.4-m single dish telescope located on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. I’ve observed with it remotely, but Chris Lintott, Becky Smethurst, and Sandor Kruk from the University of Oxford, and Ed Paget from the Adler Planetarium went up the mountain for this run. Ed’s written an account of the trip that you might be interested in reading: Night 1, Night 2, Night 3, Night 4, Night 5, Night 6.
As a planetary astronomer I’ve pointed telescopes before, but I’ve observed in the optical and mid-infrared wavelengths using a big hunk of polished glass to collection the photons. This observing project is the first time I’ve ever observed in the submillimeter and used a dish telescope. The aim of this project is to look at the carbon monoxide (CO) in blue elliptical galaxies and see what it says about star formation. We’re actually looking at in particular (2-1) rotational electron transition of the CO molecule. This transition occurs in the rest frame of the gas at 230 GHz, wavelengths where our eyes are not sensitive.
Turns out that the CSO uses Mars as a frequent calibrator and pointing target for the Leighton telescope. The first time I pointed the telescope back last July when we had observing time was the first time I’ve ever observed Mars, and it was just to check the pointing! There’s a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2), as you know. 30% of Mars’ atmosphere condenses out into the slab of CO2 ice in the winter on the South pole that the geysers (and as a result the seasonal fans) will be spawned from. There’s also a lot of CO. CO in Mars’ atmosphere was detected and observed in the submillimeter.back in the 1960s ad 1970s. The result is a strong absorption feature when you observe the disk of Mars and its atmosphere. You can use it to step the beam across as you tune the telescope and find the optimized pointing that gives you the strongest signal (and thus best pointing). So nightly the Galaxy Zoo gang were using Mars for calibration observations at the start of their nightly observations. It’s a very different use for Mars’ atmosphere, but there is useful info in the spectrum you can extract about the state of the Martian atmosphere. The width of the line and depth tell you about the global amount of CO and the global average wind speeds. The guess from the Galaxy Zoo lot that night was that they were seeing something on the order of 10 km/s winds.
With Planet Four, we’ll also be getting estimates of the wind speeds on Mars, but from the bottom of the atmosphere at the boundary layer that meets the surface. So we’ll be probing a different regime that what the can be studied in the submillimeter. Assuming a particle size, the length of the fans can tell us the strength of the wind. The direction the fan is pointing in gives the direction that the wind is heading in. We’ll be able to compare those velocities and directions we extract from you markings to that produced by global climate models of the Martian atmosphere.
After two years, thanks to your time and effort we’re the closest ever to submitting the first Planet Four science paper based on Season 2 and Season 3 HiIRSE observations. To make the final push to get the paper submitted in the next several months to a scientific journal, the science team has switched to having telecons every two weeks. As of today, we’ve got more than half the paper draft written. Michael is working on creating the catalog of fans and blotches by combining the multiple classifier markings for each cutout. I’m in the middle of analyzing the gold standard data where the science team classified a small subset of the tiles to compare to the fan and blotch catalog in order to assess the accuracy and recall rate of Planet Four at identifying fans and blotches. Chuhong has completed the pipeline to get the map projection and spacecraft information we need. Everyone, including Anya and Candy, has been working on the paper text.
Thank you for helping us get this far. We couldn’t do this without you, and we still need your help. After doing some checks on the tiles, we realized that a subset of the Season 2 and Season 3 tiles still need classifications to get them over our 30 classification completion limit. We’ve put these images back into rotation on the site, and paused most of the recent Inca City data until these tiles are completed. The faster we get the classifications for the remaining Season 2 and Season 3 images, the faster we can get to producing the final catalog for the first paper and start showing the latest Inca City images again.
If you have some time to spare, let’s make the final push for the first paper. Help map the final set of Season 2 and Season 3 HiRISE observations today at http://www.planetfour.org . Thanks for being a part of Planet Four, and thank you for your help.
On Christmas Day 2003, the British lander Beagle 2 entered Mars’ atmosphere and was never heard from again. It had hitchhiked a ride off of ESA’s Mars Express orbiter. The lander successfully departed Mars Express and then nothing. Mars is hard, and many a spacecraft has ended in demise trying to orbit around or land on the red planet. Beagle 2 never phoned home. Its fate was unknown.
This is before the arrival of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and its high resolution HiRISE camera. MRO entered orbit in 2006 and is the highest resolution imager sent to a planet in our Solar System. Now a days it is used to capture the descent of Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover (which is a challenging feat in itself), but that information gives a glimpse of what was going on if something goes awry in those 7 minutes of terror of landing, entry and descent. Later it can be used to to spot the lander on the surface. But the only image of Beagle2 at the time of its’ landing attempt is the separation image from it’s mothership Mars Express.
For 12 years it’s fate wasn’t known. HiRISE can resolve objects down to the size of a small card table on Mars’ surface. The predicted landing ellipse for Beagle 2 was imaged by HiRISE and scientists scoured the images looking for something in essence not red. They looked for something bright and shiny in the images that could be Beagle 2. And they succeed. A few days ago, ESA and NASA announced that the Beagle 2 and its used parachute had been found.
The British lander wasn’t found in pieces scattered across the surface. It was intact. It had successfully landed on the surface. A huge accomplishment and success for the United Kingdom. They stuck the landing but the deployment had some hitch preventing Beagle 2 from communicating with Earth.With HiRISE’s resolution, the images reveal the rough outline of the lander. Beagle 2 had a petal design. All the petals had to deploy for the communications antenna to be exposed and able to send/receive signals. It appears that Beagle 2 only partially deployed (a broken cable, an air bag that didn’t inflate or deflate, a rock underneath could be one of the multitude of reasons that could have prevented the final panels from unfurling), with that vital communications antenna blocked it ended the mission.
We now know what happened to Beagle 2 that Christmas Day back at 2003. Learning the British spacecraft landed successfully will help engineer future European Mars missions. I also think the ending to this detective story serves as a reminder for how powerful the HiRISE camera is. Of the imagers aboard spacecraft orbiting Mars now and in the past, HiRISE is the only instrument capable of spotting Beagle 2. It’s with its keen eyes that it resolves the hundreds of thousands of fans dotting the South Pole of Mars that we ask for your help to map at http://www.planetfour.org
Originally posted on Zooniverse:
Hashtags are an important element of how the current generation of Zooniverse’s Talk discussion system* helps to power citizen science. By adding hashtags to the short comments left directly on classification objects, users can help each other (and the science teams) find certain types of objects—for instance, a #leopard on Snapshot Serengeti, #frost on Planet Four, or a #curved-band on Cyclone Center. (As on Twitter, hashtags on Talk are generated using the # symbol.)
One of the ways in which zooites can take advantage of hashtags is by using Talk’s tag group feature. A tag group (also called a “keyword collection”) is a collection that automatically populates with all of the objects that have been given a specific hashtag by a volunteer.
For instance, here is a Galaxy Zoo tag group that populates with all Galaxy Zoo objects that have been tagged #starforming. It will continue to automatically add new…
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