My Summer with Planet Four

Today we have a guest post from Chuhong Mai, an undergraduate student working on Planet Four this summer as part of the ASIAA Summer Student Program.

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As a summer student at ASIAA (Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica), I am studying seasonal processes on the South Pole of Mars with Dr.Meg Schwamb. Well, we are quite aware that fans and blotches appear and disappear on the South Pole as the seasons change. Via HiRISE on MRO mission, we can obtain unprecedented details of them but also a large amount of unprocessed data. We hope to make good use of the data in order to have a better understanding of their physical processes, yearly evolution and influence on Mars climate.

Our first problem is the position. With all the markings you’ve made on these HiRISE cut-outs, we need to know the precise locations and thus the distribution of them. The way the images you see are Planet Four are processed we can’t directly add the spacecraft information needed to  calculate the latitude and longitude straight from the x and y positions from your markings. Instead I’ve written a pipeline using the Integrated Software for Imagers and Spectrometers (ISIS) to turn raw HiRISE data from Season 2 & 3  into pretty mosaics with the spacecraft information added. Now we are able to get the detailed greographic information of any point of interest. This means that the Planet Four team can now  measure the actual size and shape of these fans and blotches, as well as to project them on the true surface. Once we do the time series analysis, we can have a deep look on seasonal change.

In addition,  I’m also working on  ‘frost fans‘, which contain pretty blue or white stuff around or in the center of themselves. They are considered to possibly be the condensation of CO2 that come out of the vents,  but we actually have little knowledge of them. I’ll be examining images from Talk where volunteers have used hashtags to mark these features and seeing what I can learn about when and under what conditions these colored features appear. Perhaps the following study could reveal some clues to decode the puzzle.

Meet Chuhong

Name: Chuhong Mai

What is your current position and where/institution?

I am an undergraduate student in Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. And now I am working as a summer student at the Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Academia Sinica (ASIAA), Taiwan.

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

Jiangmen, Guangdong Province, China.

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

I am interested in the whole solar system, and solar systems beyond our own. For me they are places full of miracles and hopes. I’m curious about their origins, their histories and their future. Thus I work on planets, small bodies and planet formation.

Why are you interested in Mars?

Because of its mystery. I am a huge fan of science fiction, and Mars is always one of the most popular topics in sci-fi books and films. I like its red face and wonder what happened and is happening on it.

What is your favorite movie?

Contact, directed by Robert Zemeckis

What is your favorite book?

<The Three Body Problem> by Cixin LIu (It’s not a mathematics textbook but science fiction.)

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

Valder Fields by Tamas Wells

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

<A Plea en Vendredi> by Tamas Wells, <Europa> by Ron Korb, <A Wish to the Moon> by Joe Hisaishi.

Favorite cocktail or beverage?

Milk tea.

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