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Update on the Planet Four: Terrains Paper

A quick update on the Planet Four: Terrains paper. For the past month or so the team has been working on making changes to the manuscript and creating new figures to address the concerns of the two independent referees who reviewed the paper. The referees are experts in the field who assess and critique the paper. Having an independent set of eyes give feedback is useful and makes the paper better. We’ve submitted the revised draft on May 16th with a list of each of the changes we made to address the points raised by the referees. We’re waiting to hear back from the journal.  We hope that after this first round of review/edits that there will be only minor changes requested going forward. We’ll have to wait for the referees’ to read the revised manuscript and our report and send their assessment to the editor.  Fingers crossed for a speedy review.

As a teaser, below is a new figure we made for the paper.  The image is a subframe from a HiRISE observation of one of the regions targeted based on your classifications on Planet Four: Terrains. You can see that this area is like Inca City where we see fans emanating from a top the ice sheet where boulders are embedded/below the ice sheet. Not all the boulders exhibit seasonal fan/carbon dioxide jet activity when this image was taken

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Image credit: HiRISE/University of Arizona/JPL

An Update on All Things Mars

A quick update on all things Mars or at least all things Planet Four.

We got the referees’ reports back from the Planet Four: Terrains paper. The journal set it to two experts in the field. The read the paper and provided a critique of the paper. The reviewers gave positive feedback and have questions and concerns for us to address as well as other more minor requested changes to the manuscript. These additions and changes will improve the paper. So over the coming weeks, the science team will make modifications  additions to the paper draft over the coming weeks and we hope to have it back in to the journal as soon as possible. Then our written response to the referees’ report and the updated manuscript will go back to the referees for their second look. We’ll keep you posted as we make more progress.  In the meantime, there are new images we have uploaed on the Planet Four: Terrains website in need of review.

In regards to Planet Four: Ridges, thank to your help we’re completed 100 CTX images of our second search area. We’re currently working on getting new images onto the site. The CTX images are being processed as we speak and cut up into the subimages we need for the website. The images should hopefully be uploaded over the next week or so. Stay tuned to this space for more updates.

For Planet Four, we’re really at the stage of making the last changes and tweaks to the data analysis pipeline and switching gears to working on finishing the paper draft. We’ll have a separate blog post on that in the coming weeks.

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


First Planet Four: Terrains Science Paper Submitted

It is my great pleasure to announce that we have written up the first science results for Planet Four: Terrains in a science paper. After months of writing an analysis we have a final draft ready, and last night I  submitted it to the journal Icarus to be considered for their Mars Polar Science special issue.

Right now the manuscript is in the hands of the editor.  After some checks, the paper should be sent on to two anonymous reviewers. In what we call the peer review process, these reviewers are independent researchers in the field who read the paper, critique it, and provide feedback which the I will have a chance to respond to and make some or all the recommended revisions to the paper. This process can have a few rounds of iterations with the referee. Ultimately, the referees will recommend to editor of whether the paper  merits being published, and the editor makes the final decision.

So now we wait. The manuscript is in the hands of the editor at Icarus who is likely selecting and contacting possible referees. In a month or so we should get back the first round of reviews. I’ll keep you posted here on the blog. So stay tuned! This paper focuses on the distribution of spiders and swiss cheese terrain from the data on the site at launch. We’ve also included analysis of some of the HiRISE  observations taken of some of these new spider locations. I’ plan to write a fully summary of the paper results once the paper is hopefully accepted in a few months.

Thank you to all of you who have participated in Planet Four: Terrains. We could not have done this without you. We appreciate the time and effort you put into this project. Thank you for collaborating with us.

We also want to thank the Zooniverse team for giving the research team early access to their Project Builder platform to build and design Planet Four: Terrains.

Planet Four: Terrains is not finished. This is just the beginning. We’ve expanded out search more areas way from the South Pole. Many of those images are in need of review. So jump in and help explore Mars today at

Before the Sunlight Leaves

A quick update on Planet Four: Terrains. I’m working on the first paper draft and planning on submitting it to a science journal by early February with any luck. Currently the draft is being iterated on; I’m incorporating comments and feedback from the rest of the science team. The paper focuses on the distribution of spider features on the South Pole based on Planet Four: Terrains assessments. So stay tuned for more on that over the coming months.

In the meantime, I’ve also processed the subject images currently retired from the newest set of images on the site. We’ve found  interesting areas with spiders and baby spiders that we’d like to get a closer look at. We’re hoping that HiRISE will image these over the coming months. The days on the South Pole are getting shorter. May 5th 2017 marks the official start of Southern Fall Equinox. In a few months time, we’ll have to wait approximately 2 Earth years for an opportunity to image interesting regions of the South Pole with HiRISE found by Planet Four: Terrains.

Processing the retired subjects from the current set of CTX images on the site, we found four new regions of interest thanks to your collaboration that we want to take a better look at. We  have requested HiRISE imaging. So the race is on to get through as many of the P4: Terrains subject images as we can before there won’t be enough sunlight for HiRISE observations. If you can spare some time, place help classify an image or two for spiders, baby spiders, channel networks, swiss cheese terrain, and craters on

New Metadata Feature on Planet Four: Terrains Talk

The latest set of Planet Four: Terrains images comes with some added bonus features on Talk. Thanks to upgrades in the Zooniverse platform we can now display additional information with the metadata icon on Talk that won’t appear in the classification interface. So we can share the original parent CTX image name and a link to the image on Talk for your further investigations. We don’t show this information in the classification interface in order to keep the classifications free from any potential causes of bias.

So now when you classify, if you want to check out the full frame CTX image the subject is derived from, just click on the ‘Talk’ button after submitting your classification. This will bring you to the Talk Subject Page for this subject. Then if you click on the ‘i’ icon below the image,the metadata window will pop up (see below)

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!filename is the internal filename the Planet Four: Terrains used to name the subject when we generated it. !CTX_filename is the name of the full frame CTX image the subject comes from. !Public_CTX_link will take you to the MRO Context Camera Image Explorer where you can view the image (the link was working earlier to directly show the CTX image but isn’t working for me at the moment. If  you have any issues you can always copy and paste the CTX filename into the search box and that will bring up the image)

New Images Live on Planet Four: Terrains

Brand new images are now available on Planet Four: Terrains. Thanks to your help we finished all the live data on the site earlier this week. We have now uploaded new data, and we’re now expanding out to further distances away from the south pole to explore the frequency of spiders, baby spider, channel networks, swiss cheese terrain, and boulders.

These observations span latitudes of -70 to -90 N degrees as shown in the figure below. The red shows the outlines of the new CTX images loaded and ready on Planet Four: Terrains, the white is the original set on the site at launch, and the green areas are the locations/images reviewed on the site over the past several months. The new dataset is the only one so far on Planet Four: Terrains  that explores the -70 to -75 N degree latitude ring about the Martian south pole.

past_current_proposed_P4T copy

The science team is working on the first paper from the project based on the white set of images classified  (see above) on the site, and new regions of interest are scheduled to be imaged in higher resolution detail with the HiRISE camera. With more of the south pole surveyed with the classifications Planet Four: Terrains, who knows what we’ll find! Classify an image or two at

Mars Art

Inspired by the images of Swiss Cheese Terrain like these examples below shown on Planet Four: Terrains,  volunteer Albert Laubi (xflyer) made some visually stunning paintings using acrylic, oil, sand on canvas)and shared them on Talk.


Swiss Cheese Terrain Examples on Planet Four: Terrains

Here’s some words  from Albert:

(Great) Natures forms seen through (excited) human eyes.
Stunned by the variety of shapings that emerge on Mars’ south pole and impressed by the brilliant achievements of scientists, which enables us to make visible things like that even on a far away planet, I got the idea to combine this into a series of pieces containing kinda triple artwork: nature, science and (my) personal perception.

Technically I arranged in Photoshop some parts of similar b/w Mars terrain pictures to a composition, extracted chosen areas for colorizing and texturizing, then put this different layers through all paces, till I had a balance, where I could say: Yeah, let’s paint it! The original size of each painting is 50cm x 50cm.

Check out Albert’s pieces below:


Marsic Chromorph I-VI Image Credit:  Albert Laubi

Thank you Albert for sharing your work. If you have any Planet Four or Planet Four: Terrains inspired artwork or poetry, we’d love to share it. Post a link to your work in Planet Four Talk or Planet Four: Terrains Talk


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

HiRISE Targets

We started Planet Four: Terrains with the main goal of finding new regions to study during the upcoming seasonal processes HiRISE campaign. The idea was to have people scour low resolution Context Camera (CTX) images for terrains indicative of sculpting during the seasonal processes  produced by never-ending cycle of  carbon dioxide ice being deposited on the surface in the winter and that ice sublimating in the spring and summer. We would then  select a portion of those areas for further study with high-resolution imaging with HIRISE. With the varied textures of the Martian surface it would be difficult for a machine to do this task, but the human brain is well suited to this task.

We launched Planet Four: Terrains at the end of June as part of the launch of the Zooniverse’s new citizen science platform and project builder portal. Planet Four: Terrains had little less than a year to review 90 full frame CTX images divided into 20,122 subimages or subjects as their known on the website. With your help, the project was able to get through all 20,122 subjects in time, and even put in more images. Thanks to your classifications and Talk discussions, the science team was able to come up with a list of images and locations for further study. We aim to have the HiRSE camera point at these locations and snap images. Some of these locations will be monitored throughout the Southern spring and summer. Right now these locations have been entered in the HiRISE target database. This means that Planet Four: Terrains has successfully achieved one of its prime goals!


One of the new targets of interest found by Planet Four: Terrains that will monitored by HiRISE during the spring and summer on the south pole of Mars starting in the coming months. This subject was classified as part of the second set of CTX images classified on Planet Four: Terrains  Discovery details

Now, Candy Hansen, PI of the project and head of the seasonal processes campaign with HiRISE, will prioritize our  targets with the rest of the regions that the HiRISE team wants to study. The first of these should with any luck get images in the next few months. We’ll keep you updated here on the blog.The final  list of targets from Planet Four: Terrains is  a mix of locations found on Talk and through the classification interface.  We’ll have more details as we get closer to the start of Southern spring (July 5th), but we wanted to share one of the new locales,spotted thanks to the volunteer contributions on Planet Four: Terrains, that will be imaged by HiRISE. This specific region shown above was highlighted on Talk.  It was noticed by the science team, and  we agree it is an interesting area to look at how spiders develop. We’re interested to see how the seasonal fans and blotches over the coming Martian Southern spring and summer. We’re currently planning a sequence of images at this location. CTX has a resolution of 6-8 meters per pixel. HiRISE has a resolution of 30 centimeters per pixel, so we’ll get to see a lot more detail particularly in the structure of the spider channels than what’s current visible in the CTX image above.

This isn’t the end of the project, we’re really just getting stared.  Because of your classifications, we’ve found spiders in interesting and potentially unexpected regions so we’ve decided to keep the project going with new locations to review. Help today at