Friday, 2013 May 3 at 11:08 am MST
Tomorrow night the HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will start taking images of the surface of Mars again, after a 5-week break while Mars was behind the sun from our perspective. That configuration between the Earth, Sun, and Earth is called “solar conjunction”. The data rate during solar conjunction is too low to send our huge high resolution images back to the Earth, so we just don’t take any pictures during that time.
Today I am going through the descriptions of upcoming observations to fix any spelling, grammar, or other problems. The description of one of the new images to be taken – “Gullies in a crater on floor of Newton Crater” – needs a minor correction: I need to take the “a” out because we don’t want articles in our descriptions. The descriptions are supposed to be headline-like. “Gullies in crater on floor of Newton Crater” is better.
Another thing I check is that “Newton” is spelled correctly. There is a Mars Nomenclature website (http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/Page/MARS/target) run by the USGS that I go to to make sure we are using the correct nomenclature and spelling for officially named Martian features. “Newton Crater” really is a crater on Mars and that is how it is spelled. And because this is a formal name, the “c” in “crater” has to be capitalized.
I have 68 more descriptions to check today. Should take me less than an hour. Here are some of our description “rules”:
- 75 characters or less
- no punctuation and special characters except for not-bare dashes (-) (i.e. dashes with white space around them are not allowed);
- Good: “2-kilometer diameter crater”
- Bad: “Dunes in Arcadia region – seasonal monitoring”
Descriptions should include:
- official Mars Nomenclature only (look up official names and spellings on the USGS Mars Nomenclature index);
- use full names of regions and features (e.g. “Meridiani” –> “Meridiani Planum”, “Victoria” –> “Victoria Crater”); if you don’t know what kind of feature or region it is, add “region” after the name
- “Giza”, “Inca City”, “Ithaca”, “Manhattan”, “Oswego”, and “Starfish” are not official Mars nomenclature but we will allow them. They are best used with the disclaimer “dubbed”, as in “Dunes with bright-dark-bright bands dubbed Buzzel”.
- Note the distinction between vallis (singular) and valles (plural)
- Note the distinction between planum (singular) and plana (plural)
- correct grammar;
- correct capitalization:
- capitalize first letter of first word
- capitalize proper names (e.g. “flow around Olympus Mons” –> “Flow around Olympus Mons”)
- “Henry crater” should be “Henry Crater”
- complete words and phrases (fix truncated words and phrases).
Friday, 2012 August 3 at 2:34 pm MST
MSL Landing Site in Gale Crater
Mars is an active place (we have the HiRISE images and scientific evidence to support this exciting contemporary view of the planet) and late Sunday night it will become even more active: after several months in transit followed by seven minutes of terror, Curiosity – the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover – should find itself on the surface of the Red Planet and ready to explore Gale Crater for the next Martian year.
To support the MSL mission and add an extra dash of drama, the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will attempt to capture Curiosity descending through the Martian atmosphere by parachute. This attempt is similar to our successful image of the Phoenix lander descending by parachute back on May 25, 2008. Success depends on (1) the MSL mission’s own success and (2) our camera being at the right location in orbit and looking at the right spot at the right moment. The engineers and scientists have checked and rechecked their calculations, the commands have been successfully sent up to MRO, and now we hold our breath until Sunday night hoping that all of the logistics come together for a successful image.
Many of us HiRISE team members will be here at the HiRISE Operations Center beginning Sunday night to wait for this image to hit our servers for processing early in the morning on Monday. We plan to eat pizza and Cheetos, watch NASA TV’s coverage of the landing, and monitor telemetry and data processing. If all goes well, if MSL lands safely and if the HiRISE camera actually captures the descent, then you will likely hear (and see) more Monday morning. In the following days, weeks, and months we also plan to take additional images from orbit of Curiosity hard at work on the Martian surface.
If you are in Tucson, Arizona, other locations with NASA centers, or would like to follow along with the landing online, there are a variety of events scheduled this weekend that you might enjoy:
Wednesday, 2012 April 25 at 12:57 pm MST
In addition the excellent voice work of Arizona Public Media radio personality Robert Rappaport, we’re very excited to announce our newest voice, Tre Gibbs.
Mr. Gibbs is a professional voice over talent based out of California. He saw our earlier call for new voices, volunteered and more than met the challenge. This week’s captions are his first for HiRISE and we’re very glad and appreciative of his efforts. You can view his website here.
We also have a new Spanish voice over, La costa de las estrellas. ¡Gracias para el apoyo!
Of course, we are always looking for new voices so we can replace our computer-generated audio with some down-to-Earth humans. The more audio we have, the bigger the audience for those who are visually impaired. Contact hitranslate at uahirise dot org for more info.
We also thank our volunteers who have made recordings for us throughout: Nahum, Murilo, Ari, Roberto, and Ana Margarida.
And welcome to our team, Tre, Fernando Beltran and Estrella Castello!
Thursday, 2012 April 19 at 10:47 am MST
When we do public presentations, one point we like to mention is how much technology has changed in the exploration of Mars. Our favorite example is the (in)famous feature in the Cydonia region, snapped by Viking in the 1970s and known to the world as “the Face.”
HiRISE has imaged this landform as well, and at much better resolution. But even now, with MRO’s electronics, it sometimes seems an iPhone is more powerful and sophisticated with what it can do! Planetary probes have technological obsolescence built in, but unlike a phone or a computer, you can’t (really) upgrade anything. It’s amazing so many of our probes have lasted as long as they have. (Voyagers, we’re looking at you!)
But what got us writing this post was having stumbled across an old “In Search Of…” episode about Mars. It’s worth a look (you can tell your boss it’s research. We did!) to see how much things have or haven’t changed in thinking about the Red Planet: http://youtu.be/gdMILD8XUoQ
Tuesday, 2012 April 17 at 11:05 am MST
We thought we would drop this blog entry about the latest Lunar and Planetary Science Conference for your reading pleasure with some ideas about the past Martian climate.
When giving public presentations, we often mention areas of Mars, like Nili Fossae where we have detected phyllosilicates, which is a $50 word for clay minerals, broadly speaking. Because we keep our presentations general, we often say, these places are where we want to send rovers to see if water was once there, as part of NASA’s grand “follow the water” theme.
But, what if these clays aren’t present here because of the presence of a body of water but perhaps under the surface where water could exist in liquid form? And if we say that Mars was wetter in the ancient past, does that necessarily mean it was warmer?
Check out the link above for some of the latest research ideas.
Sunday, 2012 April 15 at 8:16 pm MST
We at HiRISE extend our condolences to one of our HiTranslate volunteers, Aristides Skourtopoulos, whose father passed away unexpectedly.
While we respect Ari’s privacy during a difficult time, we are very proud of his help in just about single-handedly getting the Greek section of HiRISE underway. We’ve been fortunate to have such a terrific group of volunteers that they all really seem part of the HiRISE team.
Thank you, Ari! Your friends at HiRISE wish you and your family well.
Friday, 2012 April 13 at 10:22 am MST
We’ve been very lucky to have an actual radio personality, Robert Rappaport of Arizona Public Media, narrating our weekly imaged captions. And we’ve been especially lucky when some of our fantastic language volunteers have made their own recordings to accompany their texts as well.
But we’d like to see who else has talent. If you have a good voice and want to volunteer a bit of your time, we’re looking for folks to help us record our translated captions: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Greek. We often use a computer voice for narration and while it’s not bad, it’s not the same as a person. We make these audio clips mostly for the visually impaired, so your help will go to help everyone learn about Mars.
So if you’re interested in being Mars’ next recording star, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
Thursday, 2012 April 12 at 3:37 pm MST
Everything is a teaching moment.
We’re lucky to get a lot of feedback through our website from the public. Lots of folks asking good questions, or need some clarification on something.
BUT THEN WE GET THE SCREAMERS.
Red flags go up, hackles raise, trepidation sets in. When we get feedback in email with something in all caps, we expect the worst: why are you hiding stuff? Why won’t NASA release (insert favorite pareidolia image here)?
One question that’s often hard to decipher is when we’re asked for the original image. A light red flag goes up: what do you mean? And why are you asking in all caps?
But, it’s the nature of the job: everything is a teaching moment. Everyone gets a respectful answer, or a kind request for a bit more information about what they mean. Most folks are satisfied and plunge right back into looking at our images of Mars. Every now and then, a person likes to start a…discussion based on some well-defined positions.
But every moment is a teaching moment, we say.
Wednesday, 2012 February 22 at 3:07 pm MST
Looks like the HiBlog hasn’t gotten any love in some time, so we’re making a better effort to update it. We should probably start with overhauling how HiBlog look, but that will come soon.
In the meantime, we have a new batch of captioned images for your enjoyment: http://uahirise.org/nea.php
Tuesday, 2011 November 8 at 3:55 pm MST
Since its launch in 2010, HiWish has been quite successful. We’ve captured images of Mars for well over 500 public suggestions, an average of about one per day. Updates to the HiWish web application were made in the summer of 2011, and they include the following:
- the interactive maps of Mars now expand to fill most of the available page size instead of using a fixed, small size
- there is an additional basemap option: Night-time Infrared. Also, the Day-time Infrared basemap is higher resolution. These maps are made from THEMIS data by NASA’s Ames Research Center and we appreciate the work done by those teams
- markers for CRISM data can now be drawn on the suggestion maps, and they link to the corresponding publicly available download
- you can stretch (or shrink) your suggestion’s rectangle to match the longest (or shortest) observation length that HiRISE typically takes. It still defaults to our average image length. After placing a suggestion, click on the marker and you’ll be able to resize it to match a particular feature’s length.
- there is now a “browse” map where you can just explore, without creating a suggestion
- global maps of HiRISE Digital Terrain Models and of HiWish observations to date
Thanks for using HiWish, and keep the suggestions coming!