In April 2015, we launched our yearly Hangoutathon with the launch of a brand new citizen science program. Funded by you (or at least by donations from people like you), this new invites you to help us explore two different data sets of the red planet. (Want to know what cameras took these photos?)
Finding the Fresh Soils
Planet Mappers: Mars is packed with two very different data sets that allow you to help with two different science projects. In one data set, you’ll be exploring dunes, rocky vistas, boulder fields and more as you strive to hunt down elusive craters. These images let you work with a team led by Edwin Kite at the University of Chicago as they explore possible landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover. They are searching for those places on Mars where the surface is changing under the force of erosion. These sites are places that have few to no craters, and may even have amazing (to me) features like rolling dune fields. Surface materials (translation: dirt) in these regions have spent less time being exposed to the harsh rays of space; high-energy from the Sun and from powerful events throughout our universe can break down fragile molecules, such as large organic molecules. The 2020 rover is being designed to look for these molecules, and you can add to the dataset used to pick its landing site by mapping out craters in areas of interest. Be warned, a lot of these images are missing craters. That’s ok. Enjoy the red planet, click the big blue button of “I’m done”, and keep looking until a crater does appear for you to mark!
Looking for youthful lava
In the second data set, Stuart Robbins brings you to the much more desolate slopes of Martian volcanoes. We invite you to map out the surface features that dot the area around Elysium Mons and its network related smaller volcanoes. The density of craters in these regions is a direct indicator of how long it has been since the lava the formed these regions last flowed. To quote Robbins, “This work has implications not only for Mars’ heat budget, but also life because active volcanism can provide not only a heat source, but also a chemical gradient that life could take advantage of.” Put simply, we’re asking you to help us answer, when did Mars last have volcanism, and potentially, when were the conditions in these regions last right for life.
So, we’ve got Mars images for you to explore? Want to help us look for possible sites for life (and for Rover 2020 to land)? Click over to Planet Mappers: Mars edition.