Archive | June 2016

Happy 1st Birthday Planet Four: Terrains

Today marks the first anniversary of the launch of the Zooniverse Project Builder Platform and with that today also marks the 1st birthday of Planet Four: Terrains. You can read the blog post by Zooniverse PI Chris Lintott from that day. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to create this project due to the capabilities offered with the new Zooniverse project builder. Planet Four: Terrains is truly a project we wouldn’t have created without it;  many thanks needs to go to the Zooniverse development team who created and continue to support and enhance the project builder.

When we launched Planet Four: Terrains, we really didn’t know what we were going to find. The science team thought the project would discover a few interesting areas with spiders to follow-up. An Earth year later, 10,000+ people have effectively moved a NASA spacecraft and decided where it will image! Now we have 20+ regions that were forwarded to the HiRISE team and ultimately selected to be imaged by the HiRISE camera. HiRISE aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will examine the areas in more detail and for many see how they evolve with multiple observations spread over the coming Spring and Summer on the Martian South Pole. This is incredible! HiRISE has ~20x higher resolution than CTX subimages shown on the site, so we should get exquisite detail of the spider channels and any seasonal fans and blotches that form. Next week marks the official start of Spring and the return  of the Sun to the South Pole of Mars. As the lighting improves with the ever increasing sunlight, the first HiRISE images from these new targets should start coming in soon, we hope. Stay tuned to this space for updates!

Thank for your time and effort on Planet Four: Terrains. We couldn’t do this without you. As our way of saying thank you, we’ve created a collection of all the subject images selected for high spatial resolution HiRISE imaging. You can peruse it here. With any luck in a few weeks, we’ll be able to share some of the first HiRISE images of these areas from this Mars Year’s seasonal monitoring campaign.

Help celebrate Planet Four: Terrains’ first birthday today by classifying images today at

5 Million Classifications

Today we have a post by Dr. Candice (Candy) Hansen, principal investigator (PI) of Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains. Dr. Hansen also serves as the Deputy Principal Investigator for HiRISE (the camera providing the images of spiders, fans, and blotches seen on the site). She is also a Co-Investigator on the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph on the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn. Additionally she is a  member of the science team for the Juno mission to Jupiter. Dr. Hansen is responsible for the development and operation of  JunoCam, an outreach camera that will involve the public in planning images of Jupiter.

Five MILLION Planet Four classifications!  We have 4 people on our P4 science team – I cannot even begin to calculate how long it would have taken us to do the work that you, our fabulous volunteers, have done.  Because of your contributions we are analyzing all this data, getting results, rather than still doing the measurements on individual HiRISE images.

Just the other day one of my colleagues and I were discussing our early efforts to automate the identification and sizing of fans.  We were at the time perplexed by how to train the code to recognize the same fan when the contrast had changed, recognizing that fans could come from the same source yet point in different directions, what to do when a hazy atmosphere lowered the contrast of all the fans in the scene and so on.  The human eye-brain connection is so incredibly powerful that we overcome these challenges without even realizing that we have faced a puzzle!

And in the process of helping us I have also realized that you have built a community.  We all are now members of the P4 science team.  With that in mind I’d like to acknowledge the wonderful contributions of our moderators, and how the interplay between Meg, the moderators, and all of the rest of us has lent a joyful note to the whole undertaking.  To the Talk community and all Planet Four volunteers , you might have been alone when we passed the 5 million mark, but all of us are celebrating together around the world!