5 Earth Years of Planet Four

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 that orbited around Saturn until the end of its mission last year. 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.

Last week marked the 5th anniversary of Planet Four’s launch. Five years ago,  I was sitting in a meeting only partly paying attention.  I was focused on the brand new Planet Four website – it had just gone live and took off like a rocket.  I kept hitting refresh, enjoying each of the new introductions in the “Hello Everyone!” chat.

Now we have a community.  When I lurk (which I still love to do) I recognize the names – Pete J, wassock, Kitharode, angi60, p.titchin, ….  My heartfelt thanks go to Meg Schwamb for engaging with our citizen scientists on a regular basis!

Five years on you have measured fans and blotches in over 5 million HiRISE image cutouts.  We’ve applied statistical analysis and turned that into a catalog.  We can now query the catalog (where is the longest fan?  Which way is the wind blowing in Manhattan at the beginning of spring?)   We are very close to submitting our first paper describing the catalog with samples of potential results that can be pulled from it.  The second paper is already shaping up with comprehensive results for wind directions throughout spring – these results are the gold we were hoping for when we started this citizen science project.  The vision we had in the beginning is now coming true.

Right now we use models to understand Mars’ meteorology.  In order to test the models we need data – wind markers.  The atmospheric modeling scientists are very excited about seeing our results – results we wouldn’t have without your efforts!  Thank you as always for your generosity with your time!!

 

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