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‘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

Upgrades to Planet Four: Terrains Talk

There have been some great new features added in to Planet Four: Terrains Talk by the Zooniverse developers over the past few weeks and months. Here’s a consolidated list of many of the new improvements and features:

  • There’s a notification system which will send you emails if you get private messages, threads you join, threads you’d like to follow, and threads you’re mentioned in. You can change your email/notification settings in your profile.
  •  You can change the notifications preference for individual discussion threads by clicking subscribe/unsubscribe to cycle through the options. Those preferences will only be set for that thread, you global settings in your profile will be used for all other threads.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 2.09.01 PM

  • The way replies work has have been updated – so now there’s a embedded link to the person’s comment you’re replying to.
New replies format

New replies format

  • There is a new recent comments stream. There’s a Planet Four: Terrains Talk wide version (you can access it through the right side bar on the Talk front page). There are also ones for each board (you can find the link on the right side sidebar).
The orange box shows where the Recent Comments link is

The orange box shows where the Recent Comments link is

  • There’s a new mentions capability. If you want to include someone in a conversation and trigger an email/notification you can mention the person by adding an ‘@’ in front of their username. You can find out what to include to mention a given volunteer by looking to the left of their post.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 2.03.29 PM

In the case above if you wanted to add moderator wassock to your conversation you’d write @wassock. Also if you need to contact both Planet Four: Talk moderators  (@wassock and @Kitharode) you can mention them with @moderators in a post.

  • Is there an image you’ve come across that relates to an on-going discussion?  If so, you can add a link to it your post by writing ^S<subject_id> and replacing <subject_id>  with the image’s subject id. It will automatically link in the image’s subject page (e.g. ^S475492 ) . You can find that image’s subject id on top of the notes pages or listed above the image being discussed
Ways to find the subject ID.

Ways to find the subject ID.

The Zooniverse development team is continuing to improve and update the latest version of Talk. More features will be added over the next few months. Stay tuned to the blog for more details. If you have  suggestions for new features you’d like to see in Planet Four: Terrains Talk, feel free to add your thoughts to our feature request thread.

Zooniverse Talk

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 1.34.56 PM

Planet Four: Terrains was launched in June on the Zooniverse’s latest platform and part of that system is a new Zooniverse wide Talk. It’s a place where you can keep up with the latest news across the Zooniverse, interact with people who are counting penguins all the way to transcribing ships logs, and communicate with the Zooniverse team.

Zooniverse Talk also hosts a Daily Zooniverse suggestion board. So if you’ve seen a particularly interesting image on Planet Four or Planet Four: Terrains, can you suggest it for the Daily Zooniverse here. Also there’s a dedicated board for the young adult and middle school/high school age students. You can find the Teen Talk discussion board here.

If you have thoughts about the wider Zooniverse or want to share how awesome you think Planet Four or Planet Four:Terrains is, you can access Zooniverse Talk

New Data Live – Giza Season 1

Thanks to your help making the push to classify images of Ithaca Season 1 to make room for new data,  we have mixed in new data live to the remaining Ithaca images we’re showing on the site. We added Season 1 images from a new area of the South Pole nicknamed ‘Giza.’  These images have never been reviewed in such detail before. With your help we can identify and map all the season fans and blotches.

Here’s what  Candy Hansen, principal investigator (PI) of Planet Four had to say about Giza:

Giza is an important region for us to study for several reasons. The study of weather in the polar region benefits by having samples from numerous locations – and Giza is distant enough from the others that you’ve been working on (Manhattan, Inca City, and Ithaca) that we will have another good sample for the atmospheric models. The fans also show an interesting evolution (take a look at this animation) that will help us to understand how particles sink into the ice. We may end up with a better understanding of what causes the bright fans to form. Finally, the channels here are a bit wider than elsewhere – are they older or is the ground more easily eroded?

With your help we are pondering these puzzles! Classify images of Giza at

Making Room for New Images

We’re gearing up to add some new data live to the site, but we need your help. We’re currently showing images of the region dubbed ‘Ithaca’ from Season 1. We’d like to start showing images from another target area of interest. To do that, we need to make some room. So let’s make the big push this week to classify Ithaca images, so that next week we can add Season 1 images of the area nicknamed ‘Giza’ by the HiRISE team.

Below is  a map to give you a sense of where Giza is compared to the other targets of interest in Season 1 that we’ve been focusing on previously.


If you have time to spare, please classify an image or two so we can show you images from a brand new area in Season 1. Let’s make it to Giza. Map some fans and blotches today at



Planet Four Giveaway

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the launch of  Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  Strapped to  an Atlas V rocket, the spacecraft was sent it on its way from  Cape Canaveral Florida to its ultimate destination, the Red Planet. Ever since its arrival after a 7 month journey and orbit insertion in March 2007, the orbiter and the HiRISE camera have been instrumental for larger and ever more sophisticated robot rovers and landers being sent to explore Mars. Equipped with the Context Camera (CTX) and the HiRISE camera among other instruments, MRO has been watching how the planet has changed for nearly 10 Earth years. I can remember in 2008, the PI of Planet Four, Candy Hansen, showing me some of the first images taken of the South Pole by HiRISE. It’s amazing to think that the instruments are still doing cutting edge science and producing a long term dataset that enable scientists and the public to get a birds eye view of the Martian surface and see how it is changing over time.

This has been especially true for the seasonal processes campaign which focuses in large part on HiRISE imaging of the  fans and spiders on the South Pole of Mars. We present you those images on the Planet Four website in order to map the  dark fans and blotches and see how their appearance and location on the Sole Pole change over a season and over the 5 Martian years. Your efforts on Planet Four are important in our quest to understand the Red Planet.As a way to give back and say thanks for your time and effort marking fans and blotches, we’re setting up a  giveaway to mark this MRO anniversary. Starting on this coming Sunday (August 16, 2015) for the next four weeks, we’ll be giving away  some lovely HiRISE stickers (thanks to our friends the HIRISE team) and Zooniverse stickers (thanks to the Zooniverse team) that are perfect for a laptop, tablet, suitcase, or any surface a Planet Four Mars Explorer wants to proudly display their love for Mars, HIRISE and the Zooniverse.

How does this work?  Getting registered for the draw is super easy, all you need to do is keep doing what you normally do.  Log in with your Zooniverse account and classify on the original Planet Four website  each week for the next four weeks. By classifying,  you’ll be entered in the weekly draw. You’ll be contacted using the email address we have on file with your Zooniverse account. Make sure to check that  your contact information is update in your Zooniverse  profile (go to log in and  click on the top right icon by your username. On the drop down menu that will appear click on Settings. Then click on the Email tab on the Settings page)

Good luck and in the meantime if you have a spare moment or two, help celebrate the accomplishments of MRO and HiRISE today by reviewing the first year images of Ithaca today at

Planet Four AMA Today!

Today is the day! The Planet Four AMA is now live on /r/science, and you can start contributing your questions right away. (See the last blog post for more details about the AMA.)

You can post your questions here. Michael, Anya, Meg, and Darren will be back at 1:00 p.m. EDT to start answering, and will continue to post answers and follow-ups for the next few hours.

Remember, you need a Reddit account to post, but it’s free and quick to make.

We’re looking forward to conversing with our volunteers and other Reddit users!

Save the Date: A Planet Four Reddit Science AMA

We’re happy to announce that the science team behind Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains will be hosting a Science Series Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit’s /r/science subreddit this coming Friday on July 17, 2015! The post will go live at 8 a.m. EDT to collect questions, and the team will begin answering them at 1 p.m. EDT.

The Science AMA Series is, according to Reddit, “a unique format that allows scientists to speak about their work in a manner that is not possible within the confines of traditional short-form journalism.” Essentially, anyone with a Reddit account can post a question for the team—about Mars, the Martian climate, citizen science, the Zooniverse, the Planet Four projects, or anything else relevant—and the team will be providing answers and follow-ups to as many as possible.

Science team members Michael Aye, Anya Portyankina, and Meg Schwamb will be joined by Zooniverse community builder Darren McRoy for the AMA.

We’ll post another blog on July 17 with a link to the AMA, as well. Save the date, start preparing your questions, and make a Reddit account if you don’t have one. We hope to see you there!

Introducing Planet Four: Terrains

Dear Martian Citizen Scientists!

We are excited to introduce to you a new companion citizen science project to Planet Four called “Planet Four: Terrains” built on the Zooniverse’s new platform. You have explored with us here in Planet Four some of the most detailed surface observations ever made in our solar system and many of you have acknowledged and wondered about all the other amazing features visible in these images that we did not ask to be studied, like spiders, networks of channels and weirdly looking craters. (some of you will remember that one of these even led to a re-observation of the same crater with the HiRISE camera).


HiRISE imaged spiders Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

It is an interesting fact that when one decides to make a camera that can resolve a lot of small details, that it will not be able to scan a lot of area. One has to decide, as long as we don’t have infinite data transport capabilities and infinite mission time at other planets and moons in the solar system. That’s why the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the spacecraft that houses the HiRISE camera that produced all the images in the Planet Four project has a complementary camera system onboard to provide context, appropriately called CTX for ConTeXt camera. It has a lower resolution than HiRISE (approx 5-6 m compared to HiRISE’s 25 to 50 cm) but takes images from a far larger region than HiRISE.


CTX image – Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science System

So here is our idea: We confirmed that many of the features you were asking about are still recognizable with the lower resolution images of CTX. Therefore we would like your help in gathering spatial statistics in where around the south pole we can find which kind of patterns on the ground that are related to CO2 ice activities. Your help in classifying CTX data into a set of ground patterns will serve to decide where the HiRISE camera will be pointed next during 2016’s south polar spring season observation campaign. This way your contributions directly improve the scientific output of both CTX and the HiRISE camera and we are very excited to provide to you a way to point the highest resolution camera in the solar system to the most interesting areas of the Martian south pole!

You can find the new project, a more detailed science case description and an awesome spotter’s guide at this address:

Thanks as always for your time and your enthusiasm!