10 steps to get your HiWish granted

As you’ve probably noticed based on some of the entries on this blog, I’m very familiar with the HiRISE camera. In actuality I’m involved with the larger science team that targets the camera, and have the amazing opportunity to help with targeting the camera every so often. There is an extraordinary sense of scale that you get when helping to target a 143 lb camera that is orbiting another planet. In the end you receive images that show parts of Mars’ surface at the highest resolutions yet attained and shed new light on what really goes on up there. It’s with this being said that I’d like to introduce you to HiWish. HiWish is the fulfillment of the promise of HiRISE being called the “people’s camera” and essentially allows the general public to submit their own targeting requests for the camera. Below, I’ll give a simple step by step on how to use HiWish and give some straight forward tips to get your target chosen from the many others that are submitted. So click past the break for your chance to help explore Mars…

The HiWish process:

Though I have many steps outlined below, actually doing a HiWish suggestion is amazingly easy to do. Actually doing a suggestion that will be taken seriously, on the other hand, is a bit harder and is the reason why I’ve written the instructions below…

Step 1 – Logging In
-The first thing that you need to do is go to the HiWish main page here and create an account (you can also access this page via the main HiRISE page).

Step 2 – Steps to Success
-Upon logging into the site you’re presented with a basic outline of the steps that a target suggestion needs to go through to actually become a HiRISE image. Though it outlines 6 steps that the image goes through, the one that you need to focus on is step 2. This is the step where the Science Theme Lead actually takes a look at your suggestion and figures out whether or not it’s worth completing. It’s this step that I’ll try to help you with in the tips section below. So after getting familiar with the overall process, go ahead and hit the “Create a New Suggestion” button on the second menu bar near the top.

Step 3 – The Control Panel
-Here you’ll be confronted with all of the inputs that you’ll need to complete a new suggestion. First let’s focus on the window that has a representation of google Mars in it. The default view here is Themis Dayime Infrared, which is a good way to see features but can be a little hard to orient yourself with. Because of this I recommend toggling the “Show” button just underneath Google Mars to the “Elevation” option. This will show the planet’s surface in a colorized scheme that shows it’s elevation as recorded by the MOLA instrument on MGS. This will give you a much better understanding of where things are on a broad scale (for instance you can see Olympus Mons or Valles Marineris easily and get oriented accordingly).

Step 4 – Deciding on the nature of your target.

-Here’s the first daunting step: choosing what the heck you want to image. Even though Mars has a smaller surface area than the Earth, there is plenty of ground down there for you to choose from. My recommendation here is to first chose a theme. Are you going to want look at some small gully features? Or are you more interested in the shapes of the dunes in a certain location? Maybe you’re smitten with the pretty shapes that the polar ice caps reveal. Whatever the case may be, you need to focus on something in particular at this stage (remember, you can always submit multiple suggestions so you’re not completely locked into one type for all of eternity). If you’re completely at a loss as to what you should even be looking for, I suggest that you peruse some of the images that have already been attained at the main HiRISE site. Here you can see some examples of the type of things that the Science team thinks are important enough to image, and many of them have image captions that explain the features and some of the things that make them interesting.

Step 5 – Locate Where on Mars your Features Are

-Now that you know what you want to image, where the hell are they on the surface of Mars? Well this is the meat and potatoes of your image suggestion, and can be the make or break for whether or not it will actually implemented. My first suggestion is to download a .pdf map of the surface of Mars done by the USGS that can be found here. This map will have many of the major features of Mars labelled and can help you to get your bearings and focus in on specific regions. Want to focus in on the tubes created by volcanic processes? Then zero in on one of the volcanoes shown on the map like Pavonis Mons…

Step 6 – Zooming In

-Now that you’ve chosen a region or feature to zero in on using the USGS map, one option to easily locate it in HiWish is to type it’s name into the “Find” window also located underneath the Google Mars window. Conversely, if you’ve decided let’s say to find out more about the ejecta blankets around craters you can start zooming in on and otherwise peruse features using the Google Mars window. One thing to note is that as you’re zooming in, you’re going to want to transition back to the “Daytime IR” option on the “Show” button since it will represent a much higher resolution.

Step 7 – Placing your suggestion

-This step is as simple as the title suggests. All that you need to do to place your suggestion is to click on the Google Mars map and you’ll see a little stamp represented. Once placed, you can move it around by dragging it on the map. A little trick to note here is that the Themis images that your map is currently made out of (Daytime IR), though higher resolution than the MOLA map, are still pretty low res when you’re dealing with small scale features. One option that you have is to toggle on either the MOC images that are in the area or the CTX images (these options are located just to the right of the “Show” button). By toggling these on, the footprints of available images in the area are represented. The CTX (or “Context”) camera has a resolution of ~6m/pixel and the MOC camera can be as high as 1m/pixel. Not only will these other images help you to properly place your suggestion, they will also make your case that much stronger when you write your science rationale (example: “as you can see CTX Image B02_010467_2071_XN_27N210W the ejecta blanket is symmetrical in this area…” etc.). Note: the image will be represented by a small balloon in the middle of the footprint of the same color. Just click on this balloon and the link for the desired image will pop up.

Step 8 – Select Science Theme

-This step should be a piece of cake for you since you’ve already decided what you want your image to show you. All of the different science themes with their descriptions are shown in the lower right for reference.

Step 9 – Title and Science Rationale

This is probably the most important step for you to get right. You need to process all of the information that you’ve attained about your specific target, and represent it in such a way that the researcher that is tasked with reading it will take it seriously. As far as the title is concerned, don’t get too fancy or long. Just make it short and to the point (example: Crater Ejecta Blanket for Small 15km crater). The science rationale should be similarly concise. You want to represent that you’ve put at least a little bit of thought into your suggestion, and that you’ve done at least a small amount of research on that particular feature type. Remember, be concise! No one wants to read your treatise on the implications of fluidized ejecta blankets and what they tell you about the Amazonian time period in Mars’ past, least of all the researcher that is going through hundreds of suggestions. Save all the extrapolations for the paper that you’ll write later on, and write the science theme as concise and well thought out as possible. Touch breifly on What your suggestion is, Why it’s important to image, and How you want it imaged (do you need the highest possible resolution, or would you rather have a larger area imaged?).  Re-read your rationale a couple of times to see if it makes sense (it’s amazing how often this isn’t done).

Step 10 – Prioritize and Submit

Well, you’ve done it! Now you need to smack a hefty 5 on the priority scale (unless you have several and think the others should be read first), and hit the button to review your suggestion. Everything in order? Good. Hit the Save button, and start your career as a Mars Geologist. May the best suggestions win.

Extra Tips:

1) Take advantage of the resolution of HiRISE. This camera is taking images with a ground sample size of .3m/pixel, take advantage of that! Your suggestions have the best chance if they are bringing fine features that haven’t been imaged before to light.

2) Be a loner. Is your suggestion located in a hot spot where everyone and their dog has placed their footprint? Best to go it alone, and be an individual.

3) Dust to dust. Make sure that when you zoom in on that MOC image of the area, that you don’t find out that your feature is covered in wind blown dust, because unless you’re interested in imaging dunes it’s best to avoid features that are obscured by the ever-present dust.

Well that’s it. Shoot me some questions if you have ’em, and good luck on your exploration of the Red Planet.