Science Seminars

The Planet Four Citizen Science Project: Probing Springtime Winds on Mars by Mapping the Southern Polar CO2 Jet Deposits

Speaker: Michael Aye (LASP)
Date: Thursday, Sep 06, 2018
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: SPSC W120

Seminar Abstract:

The springtime sublimation process of Mars’ southern seasonal polar CO2 ice cap features dark fan-shaped deposits appearing on the top of the thawing ice sheet. The fan material likely originates from the surface below the ice sheet, brought up via CO2 jets breaking through the seasonal ice cap. Once the dust and dirt is released into the atmosphere, the material may be blown by the surface winds into the dark streaks visible from orbit. The location, size and direction of these fans record a number of parameters important to quantifying seasonal winds and sublimation activity, the most important agent of geological change extant on Mars. We present results of a systematic mapping of these south polar seasonal fans with the Planet Four online citizen science project. Planet Four enlists the general public to map the shapes, directions, and sizes of the seasonal fans visible in orbital images. Over 80,000 volunteers have contributed to the Planet Four project, reviewing 221 images, from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera, taken in southern spring during Mars Years 29 and 30. We provide an overview of Planet Four and detail the processes of combining multiple volunteer assessments together to generate a high fidelity catalog of ∼400,000 south polar seasonal fans. We present the results from analyzing the wind directions at several locations monitored by HiRISE over two Mars years, providing new insights into polar surface winds.