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Pick your own pixel on Mars!
Posted: 21 January 2010

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter scientists will soon be taking image suggestions from the public as part of their new online 'HiWish' tool.

MRO has been imaging Mars with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera since 2006, capturing some 13,000 observations of the red planet, but despite this phenomenal bounty of photos this covers barely one percent of the surface.

Anyone can make image suggestions for the HiRISE team as part of a new initiative called HiWish. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

Now, the HiRISE team will be taking suggestions from the public, following on from the original concept of the HiRISE instrument, when its planners nicknamed it 'the people’s camera.' “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,” says Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the camera and a researcher at the University of Arizona. Each image contains details as small as a desk.

It is envisaged that researchers and students will find the new tool – nicknamed HiWish – useful, and will introduce the general public to the wonders of the red planet in a fun and interactive manner. Users of HiWish will be able to see where images have already been taken, check which targets have already been suggested and make new suggestions of their own.

MRO has been orbiting the red planet since 2006, finding evidence for ancient water-drenched environments and more. Image: NASA/JPL.

In addition to pointing out the location on a map, anyone nominating a target will also be asked to give the observation a title, explain the potential scientific benefit of photographing the site and categorize the suggestion into one of the 18 official science themes, which includes impact processes, seasonal processes and volcanic processes. The HiRISE science team will then evaluate the suggestions and put high-priority ones into a queue, and when MRO's orbit is in the right configuration, the image will be snapped.

“This opportunity opens up a new path to students and others to participate in ongoing exploration of Mars,” says the mission’s project scientist, Rich Zurek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and to date the mission has returned more data about Mars than all other spacecraft combined.

Make your image suggestion at

Learn more about Mars and its robotic visitors in our Mars Special Issue of Astronomy Now, on sale now!

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.

Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.

3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!


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