Usually the venerable web cam is used for modest, local tasks, like taking deep-in-thought Facebook profile pics, making me-too webcasts, or undercover girl's locker room documentaries. But did you know there's also a web cam circling the Red Planet right now? Called the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), the cam is attached to the European Space Agency's Mars Express, and was last used to visually confirm the Beagle lander's separation from the main spacecraft. It was then put into sleep mode, and has been in that state for the past three years. Bo-ring. The ESA folks thought so too, and on a whim they gave the command to wake up back in 2007. It did, and now they want your help processing a year's worth of images.
Says the ESA:
Open invitation for image feedback:: You can assist the Mars Express team with additional processing of the raw image data files as well as interpretation: What do you see? What part of the Mars surface is being shown? Can you identify any geographical features? What regions of the atmosphere or atmospheric components do you see?
Keep in mind these images are what they're calling "tourist quality" (i.e. non-scientific), so they aren't going to be used in any major studies or experiments anytime soon. They are, however, perfect for Mars enthusiasts and weather-watchers. And who knows, maybe you'll be lucky enough to use this web cam to spot a careless Martian doing something they can't take back. Interstellar YouTube video? WIN. [ESA via Discover Magazine]