Archive | April 2014

Planet Four Now Available in Simplified Character Chinese


欢 迎光临第四行 星!We’re pleased to announce that Planet Four is now available in simplified character Chinese. Thanks to the efforts of the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) Office and Zheng Meyer-Zhao at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Academia Sinica (ASIAA) in Taiwan. Also a big thank you to Chris Snyder from the Zooniverse’s development team at Adler Planetarium for  all the technical help and to Ning Ding at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona for help verifying the translation. Below is a note from  Zheng Meyer-Zhao and some info about the site both in simplified Character Chinese and in English:

Zheng Meyer-Zhao

I am a software engineer at ASIAA, born and raised in the north-east of China. It has been my pleasure to participate in the translating efforts the Planet Four website to simplified Chinese. During the Citizen Science workshop organized by Meg in March 2014 at ASIAA, I learned that many people worldwide are joining this great project in their spare time to help out scientists. However, there are not many people participating from China yet. The main reason of this is the availability of the information, as there was no Simplified Chinese site available. The simplified Chinese version of Planet Four provides a perfect opportunity for people in China to join the exciting cutting-edge project to enjoy and experience the amazing images of Mars.


我是中研院天文所的软件工程师,生长于中国东北。我很荣幸能帮助第四行星翻译简体中文网站。2014年三月,Meg 在 中研院天文所组织公众科学研讨会。从一个星期的研讨会中,我了解到, 来自世界各地的志愿者朋友们利用他们的闲暇时间参与宇宙动物园的项目,来帮助科学家们分类海量图像,可是却还没有很多国内的志愿者朋友参与。这其中主要的 原因是缺乏相关讯息,因为宇宙动物园的项目还没有简体中文网站。前一段时间Meg请我帮忙翻译第四行星的网站,我欣然答应。希望第四行星的网站可以给国内的志愿者朋友们提供一个了解火星的平台,让更多的人能够参与这个令人兴奋的项目,体验前所未有的精彩火星图像。


欢迎光临「第四行星」。行星科学家正在计算测量火星地表特征,很 需要你的辨识和协助。在此和你面对面的火星地表图像非常独特,绝对都不会在地球上出现,因为每张图像都取自火星的南极!对火星南极这块陌生区域,我们的了 解仍极有限,其中大部分是人类未曾亲眼见到过的火星景象!


我们需要你帮忙找出火星地表上的「扇形」和「暗斑状」的图(以下简称「扇形」、「暗斑」),并且用框线的方式做出标识。科学家认为这些形状特征代表 风向和风速。只要持续追踪「扇形」和「暗斑」,经过几个火星年后,我们将会渐渐知道这些特征是如何形成、发展以及它们会怎样消失和变化,这能帮助行星科学 家深入了解火星气候。此外,如果相同特性总在相同地点形成,也将有机会认识到这些地表特征会怎样在经年累月后发生变化。




Welcome to Planet Four!

Welcome to Planet Four, a citizen science project designed to help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars . . . the likes of which don’t exist on Earth. All of the images on this site depict the southern polar region, an area of Mars that we know little about, and the majority of which have never been seen by human eyes before!

What am I looking for?

We need your help to find and mark ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface. Scientists believe that these features indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ over the course of several Martian years to see how they form, evolve, disappear and reform, we can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate. We also hope to find out if these features form in the same spot each year and also learn how they change.

Why do you need our help?

There are far too many images for a group of scientists to get through alone and computers are just no good at detecting the features we are trying to mark. The human mind is far superior at analyzing images with the complexity of the Martian surface!

Your markings will be collected together with the markings made by other volunteers on that same image. Taking an average of these markings, we will produce an extremely reliable map of the ‘fan,’ and ‘blotch’ features on the surface of Mars and the first large scale measurement of wind on the planet.

Look Up

Time to take a break from the computer screen and take a look at the night sky. This month, that bright red star near the moon, isn’t actually a star it’s our sister planet Mars. Mars was at opposition (where you have  Mars, Earth and Sun in a straight line with Mars 180 degrees on the other side of the Sun with the Earth in the middle ) earlier on in April. If we were dealing with circular orbits, then opposition would also be the point of closest distance between the Earth and Mars, but it’s not. Mars was at opposition  on April 8th and it was closest to the Earth on April 14th. This celestial alignment happens every ~26 months (reason why missions to Mars launch roughly every 2 years to take advantage of the small distance between the two planets).  You can find a nice description of Mars’ opposition and how it works  here and here.

Even though its’ past the 14th, Mars is still bright in the night sky. With a  telescope or a pair of binoculars you can likely make out some details on the surface including the very diminished Northern Polar Ice Cap. The North of Mars is currently in full swing of summer. You may recall that Northern Summer Solstice (Southern Winter Solstice occurred back in February),so the northern cap has been thawing while the carbon dioxide ice cap on the South Pole has been growing. With the eventual arrival of daylight, seasonal fans and carbon dioxide geysers will popping up again on the South Pole soon enough.

If you need help spotting Mars in the evening sky, this sky guide below by the Dark Sky Hire should help. Even by eye, Mars will have a reddish hue compared to other neighboring stars in the sky.

So in between mapping some fans and blotches tonight, take a break from classifying,  look up, and catch a glimpse of the planet your clicks are helping us to better understand!