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Where Planet Four: Terrains Might Go Next

We’re now 60% through the third set of CTX images on Planet Four: Terrains. We’ve started to think about where we want to search next. We want to continue to fill in the area searched from -70 N latitude to the Martian South Pole. I’ve been coming up with the CTX image selection since the launch of Planet Four: Terrains. I wrote a code that goes through the list of publicly available CTX images and tries to pull  out a well balanced distribution of ice-free CTX observations across specific latitude and longitude bins. I thought I’d share my proposed set of new CTX images to search. I’ve sent this list of images to the rest of the science team, and I’m awaiting their feedback. The new set if accepted by the team, will fill in gaps in our coverage and especially between -70 and -75 N latitude. When we have a final list of CTX image to search after dataset 3, we’ll update you here on the blog.

Color Code for figures below.

Red= first dataset at launched and used in our first paper

Green= second dataset

Magenta = third dataset that expanded out to -70 – currently being reviewed on the site

Gray = 4th proposed set of CTX observations to search


The CTX image outlines are overlaid on an elevation interpolated map. Latitude and longitude lines are in 10 degree intervals for above and below.  The colors below represent geologic units, but for this comparison we’re focusing on spatial distribution and coverage. More details can be found here


More Planet Four – Introducing Planet Four: Ridges

Today we have a guest blog by JPL research scientist Laura Kerber.  Laura studies  physical volcanology, aeolian geomorphology, wind over complex surfaces, and the ancient Martian climate,

The surface area of Mars is almost the same as the area of all of the continents on Earth. Only a tiny fraction of these vast, untouched lands have been explored by rovers. Of the rest, much of it has still never been seen up close by human eyes. Today we’ve launched  Planet Four: Ridges, and we are asking for your help to explore a particularly interesting part of the Red Planet. The goal is to find polygonal ridge networks, which are intersecting lattices of thin ridges enclosing polygonal shapes.

A polygonal ridge network in the eastern Arabia Terra region of Mars. This image shows an area about 4 kilometers across

A polygonal ridge network in the eastern Arabia Terra region of Mars. This image shows an area about 4 kilometers across

Some of these ridges can be up to 50 meters tall, and from the surface would appear like the ramparts of an enormous fortress. Networks of ridges are usually formed via the filling of fracture networks either with lava, wind-blown sediment, or mineral deposits from circulating ground waters. These fractures are then transformed into ridges as the softer units around them get eroded by the wind. Your classifications on this site will help researchers find these networks and compare them to distributions of other features, such as mineral signatures, ancient valley networks, and dried up lakes. The images you see here are taken using the mid-resolution (6 meter per pixel) Context Camera (CTX) in orbit around Mars. Each participant views portion of images and decides whether or not there is a polygonal ridge network in the frame. We collect together everyone’s views on each image and this helps us find new ridge networks to study. The ridge networks can be subtle, but human eyes are well suited for pattern-finding, which is why we rely on you over computer algorithms.

More than 3.5 billion years ago, the climate of Mars was much different than it is today. The surface of Mars shows evidence for hundreds of lakes, and thousands of kilometers of flowing rivers. During this time and earlier, warm groundwater may have circulated in the Martian subsurface, potentially providing a protected home for early Martian life. One piece of evidence for groundwater during this period is the presence of clays that are deep in the crust (often visible in the central peaks of impact craters). Another is the presence of mineral veins, which are formed when warm water carrying elements in solution deposits minerals on the walls of fractures. Hot water or steam can also alter wall rocks of fractures, causing the walls to harden compared with the surrounding material. Later, after the crack cools, the minerals become harder than the rock types that surround them, so that as the surrounding unit get eroded by the wind, what was originally a fracture becomes a ridge.


A ridge network filled with the mineral gypsum located in the Lut Desert of Iran, one of the world’s hottest and most lifeless deserts

A close-up of a Lut Desert gypsum ridge

A close-up of a Lut Desert gypsum ridge

Not all polygonal ridge networks are formed due to circulating groundwater, however. Sometimes open cracks on the surface get filled with windblown dust and sand, and that part gets preserved. Lava can also fill up cracks, either as it rises through the subsurface as magma, or if it is flowing along and drips into a fracture network. Finding all of the ridge networks on Mars helps us untangle which networks were formed by which process, all the while learning more about the intriguing wetter period in Mars’ history. This project focuses on the Eastern Arabia Terra region of Mars, where several ridge networks suggestive of mineral veins have been found.

A crack that has been hardened by hot steam escaping. It has since been brought into relief by the erosion of the surrounding rock. Campo de Piedra Pomez, Argentina.

A crack that has been hardened by hot steam escaping. It has since been brought into relief by the erosion of the surrounding rock. Campo de Piedra Pomez, Argentina.

As the project continues, we hope to share more background information on these interesting features here on this blog. Meanwhile, why not go find some ridge networks? Visit to start looking.

Four Years of Planet Four

Image Credit: catbeurnier- Flickr - original photo (

Image Credit: catbeurnier– Flickr – original photo

January 8th, marked the 4th anniversary (well at least in Earth years!) of the launch of  the one and only original Planet Four. We wanted to thank you for being on this journey with us for the past four Earth years. Our first science paper seems to always be delayed, but I and the rest of the science team are dedicated to getting this paper out the door. The science team is virtually meeting on Wednesday to discuss what I hope is the freezing of the development of the classification clustering algorithm. That’s the hurdle in our way, and over the past Earth year Michael has made great strides dealing with the major issues we needed to tackle to get the science from your clicks. Thank you for your time and effort on the site. We still need you, and new data from Manhattan Season 5 is now live on the site. So go check it out and classify some fans and blotches at

Planet Four has been able to show that a citizen science approach beyond crater identification with Mars orbital imagery works. The science team was invited this past fall to showcase Planet Four at a workshop focused on citizen participation in Mars exploration hosted by NASA Headquarters. Planet Four’s successes, has spawned other Mars Zooniverse citizen science projects: Planet Four: Terrains (which has already produced results with Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter pointing HiRISE and new locations on the Martian South Pole) and a  birthday gift if you like that is coming tomorrow! Stay tuned to this space for more tomorrow! We can’t wait to share this new endeavor with you all.

Thank you for the past four years and onward to Year 5!

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!

Macclesfield (informally) on Mars

Thanks to everyone who voted in our poll to nickname the next target region of Planet Four. After 406 votes cast, you can see the final tallied results for yourself below.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.27.34 AM

After a tight race with Potsdam, Macclesfield has emerged victorious and will be the chosen informal name that we will use from now on to refer to the HiRISE target  located at -85.4  degrees N Latitude and 103.9 degrees East Longitude.  Below is a view of the newly nicknamed region. Note that this is an informal name for the area on the Martian South Pole. We’ll use the name internally within Planet Four and to refer to it in publications, but this name has not been adopted as the location’s formal name by the International Astronomy Union. We have updated the text in the current Planet Four  paper draft to reflect the new nickname.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona -

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona –

The Earthly version of Macclesfield is the home to Jodrell Bank Observatory located on the outskirts of the town. Jodrell  Bank is home to the large Lovell Telescope (currently the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world)  and  BBC Stargazing Live, which is broadcast live yearly from outside of Macclesfield. Planet Four launched on BBC Stargazing Live on January 2013. The name was suggested as an homage to the launch of Planet Four and BBC Stargazing Live.


Lovell Telescope (animation credit: Zooniverse )

Lovell Telescope (animation credit: Zooniverse) – Original image source

Season 1 images from the new crowned  Martian  Macclesfield are live on the original Planet Four right now.Classify fans and blotches in Macclesfield at




Vote for the Informal Nickname of the Next Planet Four Target Region

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Thanks to your help, we’re nearly through all the Season 1 images of the regions informally nicknamed ‘Giza’ and ‘Ithaca’ on Planet Four. It means we’ll be moving on to another region of the south pole to complete its Season 1 observations. We’ve selected a region that has no internal nickname that we refer to it by. It has been captioned previously in public releases as ‘Possible Geyser Activity’ or ‘Geysers have been putatively spotted here.’ That’s quite a mouthful, and we use the informal names to talk about the region in blog posts and in discussions among the science team and on Talk.  The previous nicknames we’ve used are ones inherited from the HiIRSE seasonal monitoring campaign, but here’s your chance to give input. Members of the Planet Four and  Zooniverse teams have come up with nickname  suggestions which you get to vote on (see below).  Note – These names are all unofficial and not formal International Astronomical Union approved names for those regions on Mars. They’re informal and help us with the record keeping.

The site is located at -85.4  degrees N Latitude and 103.9 degrees East Longitude.  You can get a sense of the area with this full frame HiRISE image. As most of the South Pole monitoring campaign nicknames are towns or cities or parts of cities on the Earth, we have decided to continue that theme for this region. Here’s the informal nicknames options you can vote for:

1. Potsdam –  Suggested by Candy Hansen (Planet Four PI) – Generally the HiRISE seasonal polar monitoring campaign has used New York regions for the informal region names. (like ‘Ithaca’ and ‘Manhattan’).  Postdam, USA is in the state of New York, and  I have a friend that grew up there.

2. Wellington – Suggested by John Keegan  (Planet Four Talk Moderator) – Known as the windiest and most southerly capital city in the world. It has an annual average windspeed around 16 knots/hr (18 miles/hr). Wellington is located in what is known as a River of Wind, between the South and North Islands of New Zealand.
3. Chicago – Suggested by Andy Martin (Planet Four Talk Moderator) – The windy city, Chicago, USA because of the number of wind directions we see.

4. Oxford – Suggested by Grant Miller (Zooniverse Communications Lead) – Oxford, UK is the birthplace and home town of the Zooniverse and therefore in turn the Planet Four project.

5.  Calistoga –  Suggested by  Michael Parrish (Zooniverse developer who built Planet Four Talk ) – Calistoga, USA is the home of  “Little Old Faithful” (also known as the Old Faithful of California). artificial geyser/erupting geothermal well

6.  Macclesfield – Suggested by Meg Schwamb (Planet Four Scientist) – Planet Four launched at BBC Stargazing Live in 2013 at Jodrell Bank. Macclesfield, UK is the name of the town the telescope is on the outskirts of.

 Vote by March 15th. 

**Note** – This vote is to help select the  nickname for a region on the south pole of Mars.  This is unofficial and not  a formal International Astronomical Union approved naming process for this region on Mars. The name is informal and helps us with the record keeping only.



New images on Planet Four: Terrains

Image Credit: Planet Four tile derived from a CTX image - NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Image Credit: Planet Four tile derived from a CTX image – NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

We’ve uploaded a new batch of CTX  data onto Planet Four: Terrains. These new images have never been reviewed by human eyes in such detail before. With your help, Planet Four: Terrains aims to map where different types of Martian terrains occur in images taken of the South Pole  by the Context Camera aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. We will use the locations you identify to find new areas of interest to serve as targets for detailed study with the HiRISE camera, the highest resolution camera ever sent to a planet! These high resolution images in turn will end up on the original Planet Four to study the fan and blotch cycle in these new areas.

Who knows what interesting finds might be waiting in these new images. Explore the South Pole of the Red Planet today and help identify terrains at

‘Tis the Season for the Planet Four Challenge

‘Tis the season for citizen science! Take a break from the mad dash of the holiday season and end of the year celebrations by exploring the Red Planet. As part of the Zooniverse’s Advent Calendar, join us this week for the Planet Four Challenge. From December 14th to December 19th, we’re asking for your help to get Planet Four to cross the 5 million mark before the end of 2015.

Help explore Giza, Ithaca, Starfish, and a few other regions on the South Pole from Season 1. Let’s get Planet Four off to a great start for 2016. If everyone mapped a few images, we would get to the 180,000 classifications needed in no time! If you’re looking for background music while classifying, look no further. The Zooniverse has you covered.

Join us for the Planet Four Challenge and map a seasonal fan or two at! And don’t forget you can follow along on our progress towards 5 million clicks exploring Mars on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

New Images on Planet Four: Terrains


Thanks to your help we’ve added in new images to Planet Four: Terrains. Like the image above, these are additional locations on the South Pole that we hope might contain activity from the seasonal carbon dioxide geysers. These images have never been looked at by humans in such detail before. Who knows what interesting things you might find.

Help classify an image or two today at