by Olivia Teague
Mars is a great planet to explore. I have always been personally interested in Mars because Mars is home to Olympus Mons the largest volcano on the planet that’s bigger than Mount Everest. I also like the dust devils on the surface of Mars and Mars two moons Deimos and Phobos. One day Phobos will fly closer to the planet and will soon crash while Deimos will orbit further and further away!
Here at the Adler Planetarium, I am an Astro-Journalist intern, where I am exploring Mars more closely through the wonders of citizen science. The thing that I am using is called the Zooniverse which is a website that lists a lot citizen science projects. Planet 4 is a project where people look at the surface of Mars to map out different features. The different types of features that can be found on Mars’s surface are caused by winds and the changing of the seasons.
The specific features people are looking for are either called “fans” or “blotches”. During the Martian spring, the sun travels through a layer of dry ice and melts the stuff that’s underneath it. The melted stuff becomes a gas trapped under the ice, and so pressure builds up as more stuff is melted. Consequently the gas bursts through the layer of dry ice to the surface, taking dirt and dust with it. That dirt and dust land back on the surface as a “blotch”. If there is wind that blows the dirt and dust over into a paddle shape, it is called a “fan”.
The picture below shows fans on Mars. The picture is taken from Planet 4’s website and the white lines show how users mark the fans.
The picture below shows example blotches on Mars. The picture is taken from Planet 4’s website and the white lines show how users mark the blotches.
After citizens classify a year worth of data, scientists are able to look at the wind patterns to see changes in Martian weather over that year.