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HiRISE Image Targeting Challenge
Welcome to the Spring 2010 NASA Quest Challenge!
Help scientists at NASA by suggesting a target for HiRISE!

See Archived HiRISE images acquired by participants from
previous Challenges

Artist depiction of the MRO Spacecraft

This challenge is brought to you by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera team in collaboration with NASA Quest.  The HiRISE camera, now orbiting Mars onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is helping NASA to search for signs of past and present water on Mars.  Understanding the history of water on Mars helps scientists understand if there is now or ever has been life on Mars.

Scientists have argued for water on Mars since the first Viking images of Mars were returned nearly 30 years ago.  Since then, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey have collected more images; now the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) is using a camera attached to a very powerful telescope to look down on the surface of Mars.

HiRISE is taking photos of Mars that are higher in resolution (~30cm/pixel), showing more detail, than any previous images.  Objects as small as a meter across, approximately the size of a teacher’s desk, can be seen in the HiRISE images.  This allows HiRISE to find small features like interior channels, streambed features, and layering.  Since the HiRISE camera is “zoomed in” to look at very small regions of Mars, it will only be able to image about 2% of the surface of the planet.  Thus each image has to count!

You are challenged to help choose some regions of Mars for HiRISE to image that probably contained water at the surface in the past.  The HiRISE team will pick several suggestions and image them with the camera in the coming months.  Your team will represent the first people on Earth to see the resulting image and will have the chance to search for signs of water in the image.

You can choose areas within a valley system or outflow channel (like the source region or other interesting spot on the floor or walls) or obtain a close-up of gullies imaged from past missions.  You can also choose to re-image an interesting site already seen in a HiRISE image to look for any changes that may indicate present geologic activity.

To increase your chances of getting your image picked sooner rather than later, here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t pick a dusty area.  A large fraction of the planet is covered in dust, and a lot of dust means that the surface features are hidden.
  2. Since we are entering Northern Summer and Southern winter, lighting will be less optimal in the Southern hemisphere, so please limit the targets that you want taken during this challenge to latitudes North of approximately 40 degrees South. 
  3. Have a well thought out hypothesis for selecting this target location.

Very few images can be taken at any given time, and the camera is restricted by its orbital path and the time of year. In addition, HiRISE is one of several instruments on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that also need to collect data and are allocated part of the data downlink volume. Image captions and analysis reports will form the basis for a weekly captioned student image release on the HiRISE image release website Even if your target is not selected this round, keep checking the website! You’ll also be able to see what other school groups have suggested and help in the analysis of those sites! We want all participating classes to analyze their favorite returned HiRISE image, whether or not they actually suggested it, and submit a report on their analysis.

See the calendar below for planning purposes. Prepare for the Challenge with some background references to learn about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Martian terrain options. Grade-specific Teacher's Guides and Student Activity Books, tutorials, and other helpful information are available in .pdf format from the HiRISE Learning and Activity Center. To browse the released HiRISE images and for additional information about HiRISE, visit the main HiRISE website at:

Calendar of Events


This Challenge is available as an archive for classroom use.

Please note: After you have registered for the HiRISE Image Targeting Challenge you will be receive an email giving you information on how to access to the active website by registering to HiWeb. HiWeb is the place where you will view images and submit your entries. HiWeb is HiRISE's interactive image suggestion facility and is the same tool that HiRISE team members use to submit, view and browse all HiRISE image suggestions.  
Now! Begin preparation, understanding:
  • What the Mars HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) is.
  • How is High Resolution photography going to affect what we are able to see?
  • What makes one site better than another in determining where water/life may have existed in the past?
  • Begin to form your opinion of where you would like to look.
  • Explore the Clickworkers to learn to recognize geologic features images and help build image feature databases for the HiRISE team.
To help you get started, we've created a page to step you through the process. It links to a point-by-point tutorial on the use of HiWeb. Only Registered Participants have access to the HiWeb (Grade-specific Teacher Guides and Activity Books are available online in .pdf format.)
See also links to other online resources for research purposes.

Archived Webcast
Webcast icon

View Opening Webcast

  • Meet the team.
  • Learn how to become a pilot tester of HiWeb
  • Learn how to use " HiWeb" site to explore options and present your preference.

Dr. Virginia Gulick and Dr. Alexandra Davatzes answered your questions about the process of finding and submitting your target for imaging by HiRISE.

The you can read the archive to find the answers to your question and any others handled during this hour long chat.

First Cycle Deadline:

When you have formed an hypothesis and are ready to request and support your selection of that site, enter your information at the HiWeb site. Information about how to access HiWeb will be given to registered participants only.

Second Cycle Deadline: N/A

As images are available, they will be open to all registered participants only via a special password protected website similar to those of past HiRISE challenges.

Date TBA Images will be acquired and posted

Deadline TBA

Submit your analysis report and caption. Form in MS Word or Adobe PDF

 FirstGov  NASA
Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: August 2010