Archive | February 2014

Planet Four Now Available In Traditional Character Chinese


歡迎光臨第四行星!We’re pleased to announce that Planet Four has been translated to traditional character Chinese thanks to the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) office at  Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics (ASIAA). A big thank you to Lauren Huang for translating and Mei-Yin Chou for verifying the translation. I’m a postdoctoral fellow at ASIAA and Lauren, Mei-Yin, and I will  be introducing Planet Four and the new translation to educators from around Taiwan at a teacher workshop on March 2nd as part of a larger workshop on Citizen Science in Astronomy  hosted at ASIAA from March 3-7th. Michael and I will both be attending the full workshop as well.

Also many thanks to the Zooniverse’s Chris Snyder for getting all the technical things set up for the translation to go live on the site in time for the teacher workshop, and thank you to the Zooniverse’s Rob Simpson and Michael Parish for their help as well.

Are you interested in helping translate Planet Four into other languages? Find out more here. 

What follows is the announcement from ASIAA, in English and then in traditional characte Chinese regarding the new Planet Four translation.


No rocketship required, help scientists study Mars from Earth

We need your help to explore Mars. On Planet Four (, you will be shown images of the South Pole of Mars taken by the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. We are asking you to mark dark fans and dark blotches that appear and disappear during the Spring and Summer on the South Pole of Mars. During the winter carbon dioxide (CO2) condenses from the atmosphere onto the ground and forms the seasonal ice sheet. The ice begins to sublimate in the spring, and the seasonal cap retreats. The dark fans and blotches begin to appear in the Southern spring when the ice cap begins to thaw and sublimate back into the atmosphere. The fans and blotches then disappear at the end of the summer when there is no more ice left.

We want to study how these fans form, how they repeat from Spring to Spring and also what they tell us about the surface winds on the South Pole. If the fans are places where the wind is blowing, then they tell us the direction and the strength of the wind. Blotches then tell us where there is no wind. This is a task that computers cannot do, but which humans are really good at. We need to collect together many people’s markings and combine the results to be able identify the fans and blotches in the HiRISE. With your help mapping the seasonal fans and blotches, we can better study and understand the Martian climate. Explore Mars today at!

(Below is Lauren, the translator, wrote to share her excitement: )

As planetary scientists delight in seeing their probes launched into space, now that the Chinese translation of the Planet Four website is finished, we are also excited for more new volunteers from our own country are about to join this project! Either by way of a probe or a newly added translated language, the two things is similar: opening up a gate to a new world always makes us feel great!

Meg asked me to say a few things as to “why I translate the website for Planet Four”. Of course, the number one motive is serving the community! During the translating process, I constantly thought about the participants of zooniverse, that they are voluntarily doing this, offering their time and resource to support science research; it is our duty to put things in clear Chinese with correct science, so that our helpers can enjoy their science quests with pleasure. However, this task is not easy and is impossible if without my colleague’s help! I’d like to thank Dr. Mei-Yin Chou greatly, who helped verifying each paragraph throughout the site.

Chinese proverb says “one step back, a broaden sky” (退一步海闊天空). I guess whenever people have the time to log in this Planet Four website, it could be a time set aside as a retreat designated of Mars exploration. We are all curious to know more about the fourth planet of our solar system and can’t wait to see how the wind blows there! Have fun!

Help planetary scientists study the climate of Mars at


左鄰拉右舍,樓上牽樓下,探索火星氣候需要大家作伙來幫忙。如果你還沒聽說的話,第四行星網站(是個需要靠人來幫忙辨識圖像的地方,這個網站會顯示一些火星南極圖像給你──這些照片都是由裝在火星偵察軌道機上的HiRISE照相機從火星南極現場拍回來的。按電腦程式出題,網站會請分類員對黑色暗斑和扇形圖像做出標示。這些圖像春季出現、夏季消失,地點是在火星南極。冬季時,火星大氣中的二氧化碳(CO2)會在地面上結凍,形成季節性冰席(ice sheet)。當春季來臨,火星南極的冰冠開始融化,昇華到大氣,到盛夏所有冰層都融化的時候,這些黑色扇形物跟斑點就全部消失了。






All hail the Zooniverse

All hail the Zooniverse! The Zooniverse is the largest collection of online citizen science projects (which includes Planet Four) and as of Friday, the Zooniverse is now 1 million people strong!


Image Credit: Zooniverse

Congratulations to everyone involved on reaching this milestone! In just a single year, Planet Four represents over 40,000 of the 1 million registered Zooniverse volunteers. (This number just represents the logged-in volunteers. Over 100,000 people have participated in Planet Four to date). Check out the  global map of the Zoonvierse community (made by Rob Simpson) to see where  all the registered volunteers (including  Planet Four participants) come from. If you don’t have a Zooniverse account, you can sign up today.

To give some history, the Zooniverse started back in 2007 with the launch of Galaxy Zoo to study galaxy morphology. It turns out that human beings are the best beating computers at determining whether a galaxy is a spiral or an elliptical or if the galaxy hosts a bar at its center or not.  7 years later, Galaxy Zoo is in its 4th iteration and the Zooniverse now hosts over 20 online citizen science projects which have contributed to date in total over 50 scientific publications.  You can see how the Zooniverse has evolved over time in this blog post by the Daily Zooniverse.  Although the Zooniverse started in astronomy, it now spans a wide range of fields including projects determining if whales have accents and transcribing World War 2 diaries.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the Planet Four community and thank you for the clicks. We couldn’t do the science without your contributions and your time. The Planet Four science team is working hard to use your classifications to understand the seasonal processes on the South Pole of Mars. Stay tuned to the blog for updates on our progress over the coming weeks and months.

Keep your fan and blotch mappings in Manhattan coming at and don’t forget to check out all the Zooniverse projects at

Grab your 3-D glasses


Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

For orbiting spacecraft a trick with spacecraft orientation can be used to get 3-D information on the terrain of a planetary body. If images of the same region are taken at different angles, these images (usually taken as two images called stereo pairs) can be combined to make stereo or 3-D images.  This is the same technique our brain uses to generate depth perception. This is because our eyes are spaced apart, each eye has a slightly different view of the things in front of us. Our brains automatically combine the information from the two images to gauge the distances to and construct the sizes of objects in our vision.

The HiRISE team does this by commanding the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to point such that the HiRISE camera rolls either left or right of the ground track of the spacecraft as its above a target region. This technique has been used to created digital terrain and elevation models of the landing sites for the Mars rovers and other areas of interest on Mars. Anya from the Planet Four team is working on analyzing a stereo pair of the spiders as she mentioned in one of our previous live chats.

A popular way to view a stereo pair from orbiting spacecraft is in what is called a stereo anaglyph where the images are combined such that there is one image for the left eye and one image for the right eye. The left looking image is displayed in red and the right looking image is displayed in blue. If you have a pair of  red-blue 3-D glasses, you should see the the above image in 3-D.

I happened to come across an analgyph (the image above) of the seasonal fans taken during the monitoring of the South Pole in Season 2, and I thought I’d share.  The full resolution 3-D image can be downloaded from here , and you explore the full-res image with zooming and scrolling capability with  the HiView tool. Grab your 3-D glasses and enjoy!