October Monthly Meeting

When: Tuesday 10th October 6:00pm,
Where: Te Wāhanga Atawhai Mercy Conference Centre, 15 Guildford Terrace, Thorndon
What: Exploring Mars with 150,000 Earthlings – Meg Schwamb

NOTE:  Change of date and venue, see map below.

Meg Schwamb

The Red Planet is a dynamic world. Mars south pole is sculpted by the never-ending cycle of freezing and thawing of exposed carbon dioxide ice. In the summer, carbon dioxide jets loft dust and dirt through cracks in the thawing carbon dioxide ice sheet to the surface where winds blow the material into the hundreds of thousands of dark fans observed from orbit. This process is completely alien, with no Earthly counterpart. Under-standing the direction, frequency, and appearance of these fans (a proxy for the jets) and how varying factors im-pact these properties, we can better understand the Martian climate and how it differs from Earth. It is difficult if not impossible for computer algorithms to accurately identify individual fans. Computers just aren’t good enough to do the required task, but the fans spotted for orbit are easily spotted by the human eye. Meg will talk about the Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains projects and its on-going effort collaborating with over 150,000 people around the world through power of the Internet. Volunteers map the dark seasonal fans and other surface features carved during by the carbon dioxide gas jets. Meg will present the discoveries made by these citizen scientists and discuss how you can get involved in exploring Mars from the comfort of home.

Meg Schwamb is a planetary scientist and astronomer studying the bodies in our Solar System and beyond. She currently is an assistant scientist at the Gemini Observatory based in Hilo, Hawaii. Megs research focuses on how planets and their building blocks form and evolve, applying ground-based surveys to probe our Solar System’s small body reservoirs. In collaboration with the Zooniverse, Meg uses crowd-sourcing or citizen science to tackle large astronomical and planetary datasets, engaging people worldwide directly in scientific research. She has collaborated with hundreds of thou-sands of people to search for new planets outside our Solar System and study the climate of Mars. Meg is a member of the science team for the Zooniverse’s Planet Four projects using human pattern recognition to map wind-blown seasonal fans appearing on Mars’ South Pole, identify seasonal features on the Martian South pole, and search for polygonal ridges in the Arabia Terra region on Mars. She also currently serves as project scientist for the Comet Hunters citizen science project enlisting the public to search for cometary activity in the Solar Systems asteroid belt. Later on this year, Meg will receive the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science from the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Science.