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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

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.

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  • 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