Public Invited To Pick Pixels on Mars

Jan 20, 2010
Students, researchers and others can view Mars maps using a new online tool, called "HiWish," to see where images have been taken, check which targets have already been suggested and make new suggestions. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

(PhysOrg.com) -- The most powerful camera aboard a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars will soon be taking photo suggestions from the public.

Since arriving at in 2006, the , or HiRISE, camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has recorded nearly 13,000 observations of the Red Planet's terrain. Each image covers dozens of square miles and reveals details as small as a desk. Now, anyone can nominate sites for pictures.

"The HiRISE team is pleased to give the public this opportunity to propose imaging targets and share the excitement of seeing your favorite spot on Mars at people-scale resolution," said Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the camera and a researcher at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The idea to take suggestions from the public follows through on the original concept of the HiRISE instrument, when its planners nicknamed it "the people's camera." The team anticipates that more people will become interested in exploring the Red Planet, while their suggestions for imaging targets will increase the camera's already bountiful science return. Despite the thousands of pictures already taken, less than 1 percent of the Martian surface has been imaged.

Students, researchers and others can view Mars maps using a new online tool to see where images have been taken, check which targets have already been suggested and make new suggestions. "The process is fairly simple," said Guy McArthur, systems programmer on the HiRISE team at the University of Arizona. "With the tool, you can place your rectangle on Mars where you'd like."

McArthur developed the online tool, called "HiWish," with Ross Beyer, principal investigator and research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.

In addition to identifying the location on a map, anyone nominating a target will be asked to give the observation a title, explain the potential scientific benefit of photographing the site and put the suggestion into one of the camera team's 18 science themes. The themes include categories such as impact processes, seasonal processes and volcanic processes.

The HiRISE science team will evaluate suggestions and put high-priority ones into a queue. Thousands of pending targets from scientists and the public will be imaged when the orbiter's track and other conditions are right.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Launched in August 2005, the orbiter reached Mars the following year to begin a two-year primary science mission. The has found that Mars has had diverse wet environments at many locations for differing durations in the planet's history, and Martian climate-change cycles persist into the present era. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is in an extended science phase and will continue to take several thousand images a year. The mission has returned more data about Mars than all other spacecraft combined.

"This opportunity opens up a new path to students and others to participate in ongoing exploration of Mars, said the mission's project scientist, Rich Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory operates the HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. The is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft.

Explore further: NASA astronaut memorial stirs memories for shuttle veteran (Update)

More information: To make camera suggestions, visit uahirise.org/suggest/ .

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Thousands of New Images Show Mars in High Resolution

Sep 03, 2009

Thousands of newly released images from more than 1,500 telescopic observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show a wide range of gullies, dunes, craters, geological layering and other features on ...

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Concern Resolved

Aug 27, 2007

Diagnostic tests and months of stable, successful operation have resolved concerns raised early this year about long-term prospects for the powerful telescopic camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Recommended for you

Going a long way to do a quick data collection

9 hours ago

Like many a scientist before me, I have spent this week trying to grow a crystal. I wasn't fussy, it didn't have to be a single crystal – a smush of something would have done – just as long as it had ...

How are planets formed?

10 hours ago

How did the Solar System's planets come to be? The leading theory is something known as the "protoplanet hypothesis", which essentially says that very small objects stuck to each other and grew bigger and ...

Japan to launch new spy satellite

14 hours ago

Japan's government said it will launch a back-up spy satellite on Sunday, after cancelling an earlier lift-off due to bad weather.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.