NASA

NASA is always reaching out to us, the people, for help making sense of the piles of data they receive about the universe. Yesterday, the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent out the call for people to help classify images of Mars taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

HiRISE's Deputy Principal Investigator Candice Hansen explained in a statement that the patterns we're looking for are a result of the freezing, and melting, of the planet's carbon dioxide ice:

In the spring the dry ice turns to gas and carves unusual features in the Mars surface, resulting in exotic terrains described informally as 'spiders,' 'Swiss cheese' and 'channel networks,'

So all we need to do to help map Mars is to look at some photos and point out the parts that look like spiders, basically.

An example of Spiders from the PlanetFour website
NASA/Zooniverse

To do so, you can visit the Planet Four: Terrains website, hosted by the crowd-sourcing site Zooniverse, which explains that we're looking for patterns in Mars' terrain called "spiders," "baby spiders," "swiss cheese terrain," "craters," and "channel networks." Spiders, they say are "radially converging channels that are often branching and often hosting a visible central pit," and baby spiders are spiders "without 'legs.'"

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An example of Swiss Cheese terrain from the Planet Four website
NASA/Zooniverse

Swiss cheese terrain is described as, "Flat-floored, circular-like depressions." Seems a little rude to cheese.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.