Archive | June 2014

Meet the Planet Four Team: Candy Hansen

Today we have the next installment of our Meet the Planet Four Team series, featuring Candy Hansen, principal investigator (PI) of Planet Four.

Image Credit: Planetary Science Institute

Image Credit: Planetary Science Institute

Name: Candice (“Candy”) Hansen-Koharcheck

What is your current position and where/institution?

I’m a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute

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

I was born in Pasadena CA, and grew up near there in Pomona CA.  I got my B.A. in Physics from California State University, Fullerton and my Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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

I work on climate and seasonal processes – on Mars, Triton and Pluto.  I also study the plumes of Enceladus.

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

My PhD thesis was to model the climates of Pluto and Triton.  With my model I can predict when and where the polar caps will form, how warm the surface will be, and what the atmospheric pressure is as a function of time.  These predictions can be compared to observations, to learn about the physical properties of the surface and ices.

Why are you interested in Mars?

I love studying the polar caps of Mars – they are made out of dry ice, and when the ice evaporates in the spring there is lots of action!

 What do you do as Deputy Principal Investigator for HiRISE?

Early in the project I worked a lot on our processes for operating the camera. Now that is all very routine, and I focus on understanding seasonal processes.

What other NASA missions have you been involved in?

I have worked on Voyager, Cassini, Mars Polar Lander and Juno.

What is your favorite movie?

Star Wars of course, because I love science fiction.  Maybe not so obvious – French Kiss, The Dish, and Serenity.

What is your favorite book?

Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love” is my all-time favorite, but I also like books by Carl Hiassen and John Grisham.

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

Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls just wanna have fun’

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

Fleetwood Mac, Linda Ronstadt, and …

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Corona beer

 

 

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Before we say goodbye to Inca City (for now)…

Thanks to your clicks, we’ve moved on from Inca City to a new region of the South Pole targeted in Season 1 dubbed Ithaca.  Before we completely say goodbye to Inca City for now (we’ll be back for Season 4 and likely Season 5 images), here are the top 25  Season 1 Inca City images favorited by you and the rest of the Planet Four community. Click below on any of the images to get a larger view and to get a slide show to peruse through the entire collection. If you’re interested in any particular image, you can find all the images in this Talk collection. If your favorite image didn’t make the list, share it in the comments below. Enjoy!

We’ll be back to Inca City soon, but in the meantime help map seasonal fans and blotches in the Season 1 HiRISE observations of Ithaca today at http://www.planetfour.org

New address: Ithaca, (85.2S, 181.4E), Mars

We have recently started showing you data from a new location! Have you noticed?

This new place is called Ithaca. It is located at lat =-85.2, lon = 181.401. Unlike Inca City (our most recent focus), this is a flat area, no considerable slopes are present here. Ithaca is located in the middle of this elevation map:

MOLA_Ithaca

You see, that the red area has maximum elevation change of less than 80 meters. In the absence of slopes, we can say more confidently that the fans here are result of interaction of dusty CO2 jets with winds and not gravity simply pulling sand downhill. Winds direct dust and sand particles after they are lifted up into the atmosphere by the jets. It is very striking, that the fans look very similar in several consequent years of HiRISE observations. The usual year in Ithaca looks like this:

ithaca_fans_4_scale

This is a mini-series of HiRISE images from early spring (a) progressing to late spring via (b) to (c) and finally to (d). Fist images that HiRISE returns each spring show large dark fans with the similar opening angles and similar directionality every year. This tells us that there is few variation in local weather from year to year.

When spring progresses, fans extend, later blue fans appear, and sometimes they take over most of the surface! Like in figure (c) – whole area is blue apart from really dark fans. This is one of the mysteries of Ithaca – we know from spectrometers, that those blue fans are fresh CO2 frost, but how comes fresh frost appears on the sides of the dark fans? Dark surface is warmer when exposed to sunlight and must prevent CO2 from forming there.

Another Ithaca mystery is its fan sizes. Here the fans grow to be huge: you see the scale bar on the first image? That is 100 m and the fans on the figure (d) are 2-3 times that long. It is larger then in most of other polar locations. For example Inca City, that must be familiar to you by now, has fans of only tens of meters. Currently scientist do not have models that is able to explain how such big fans form.

If you carefully compare left and right frames of the figure below, you can see quite some new fans appearing in the right frame.

ithaca_PSP_002675_PSP_002820

Scientists would really like to know, how many of those appear each day and how big are they compared to the old fans. In this example new fans look small, but this is only one tiny area from Ithaca. To make a clear statement we really need to count them and outline their sizes. That is why Ithaca is now waiting for you to get marking!

Enjoy!

Meet the Planet Four Team: Chris Snyder

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

Name: Chris Snyder

What is your current position and where/institution?

Technical Project Manager at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, IL, US.

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

I was born in Philadelphia, PA. Lived there for a bit, then in equal times Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio until 2012 when I moved to Chicago.

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

My primary task to manage development of Zooniverse projects. I also handle a large portion of ongoing project maintenance. Lastly, I spend a lot of time exploring ways of getting Zooniverse projects into the hands of more people.

Why do you find interesting about Mars?

It’s the first logical place for us to colonize in our solar system. Seems reasonable to learn as much as we can about it before we travel there!

What is your favorite movie?

Tie between The Matrix and The Prestige.

What is your favorite book?

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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

Just Jammin’ by Gramatik

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

Ooo, that’s a tough one. Tool – Lateralus, Pendulum – Immersion, and Metallica – The Black Album

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Bells Oberon. Sorry, not much of a cocktail drinker!

Meet the Planet Four Team: Anya Portyankina

Inspired in part by the Meet the Team on the Daily Zooniverse, we’re planning a series of posts to help you get to know better some of the people behind Planet Four. Our first Meet the Planet Four Team entry is  devoted to Anya Portyankina from the Science Team.

anya_portyankina

Image credit: The Planetary Society

Name: Ganna (Anya) Portyankina

What is your current position and where/institution?

I am currently a Research Associate at LASP (Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics) at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up

I was born in the USSR but grew up in Ukraine.

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

I am interested in different active processes in our Solar System that involve ices. Ice-covered comets, polar regions of Mars, icy satellites of giant planets – in all these worlds interactions of ice with atmospheres, sunlight and other heat sources bring to life exciting exotic phenomena.

In 3 lines explain your PhD thesis?

My PhD thesis is about interaction of Martian polar ices with the atmosphere. The large part of it is about observations and modeling of cryo-venting – exactly what Planet Four is about. Another part is about polar clouds that are created at times when seasonal polar caps sublimate in spring.

Why are you interested in Mars?

I find Mars exciting because despite it is an alien and still mostly unknown world it it similar enough to our home planet and it can be reached by humans in not too remote future. Feels nice to work towards that goal.

What is your favorite movie?

“Into the wild” directed by Sean Penn

What is your favorite book?

This one is the toughest questions for me! I can probably reduce my absolute favorites to 3: “Definitely Maybe” by Strugatsky brothers (Soviet time SciFi novel), “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov, and “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez. They are so different that it is hard even to compare them, not speaking of ranking…

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

“Rock’n’roll Nerd” by Tim Minchin

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

Something jazzy, like Jeff Healey “Among friends”, something with a swing like Robbie Williams “Swing when you are winning”, and something good for dancing on the beach like DLG’s “Gotcha!”, but I’d rather have a radio!

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Since I have moved to Boulder – definitely beer.