Input from about 10,000 volunteers viewing images from Martian south polar regions has identified targets for closer inspection, yielding new insights about seasonal slabs of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) and erosional features called “spiders.”
The volunteers from around the world have been exploring the surface of Mars by examining images from the Context Camera (CTX) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and identifying certain types of terrain around Mars’ South Pole. The collected information is used by scientists planning observations of Mars by the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, which photographs much less ground but in much greater detail, compared to CTX.
“It’s heartwarming to see so many citizens of Planet Earth jump in to help study Mars,” said HiRISE Deputy Principal Investigator Candice Hansen, of the Planetary Science Institute. “Thanks to the discovery power of people, we’re taking pictures of features of Mars with HiRISE of places we would not have imaged without this assistance.”
“In the spring the dry ice turns to gas and carves unusual features in the Mars surface, resulting in exotic terrains described informally as ‘spiders,’ ‘Swiss cheese’ and ‘channel networks,’ – this is what we asked our citizen scientists to find in the CTX images,” said PSI Senior Scientist Hansen.