Recently in the Citizen Science Category


This research was presented in the paper "The Fornax Deep Survey with VST. II. Fornax A: A Two-phase Assembly Caught in the Act", by E. Iodice et al., in the Astrophysical Journal.

Input from about 10,000 volunteers viewing images from Martian south polar regions has identified targets for closer inspection, yielding new insights about seasonal slabs of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) and erosional features called "spiders."

Want to be a citizen Earth scientist? All you need to contribute to NASA's studies of our home planet is a smartphone, access to the outdoors, and the new "GLOBE Observer" app.

Around 37,000 citizen scientists combed through 430,000 images to help an international team of researchers to discover 29 new gravitational lens candidates through Space Warps, an online classification system which guides citizen scientists to become lens hunters.

Every morning at seven, Andrew Welch wakes up, cooks breakfast and checks the rain gauge sitting on a five-foot post in his backyard. He writes down the measurement, sends his kid off to school and then heads out to his workplace as a structural engineer.

We present Brut, an algorithm to identify bubbles in infrared images of the Galactic midplane. Brut is based on the Random Forest algorithm, and uses bubbles identified by >35,000 citizen scientists from the Milky Way Project to discover the identifying characteristics of bubbles in images from the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time.

Home Computers Discover Gamma-Ray Pulsars

The combination of globally distributed computing power and innovative analysis methods proves to be a recipe for success in the search for new pulsars.

A University of Alberta physicist brought together backyard astronomers and professionals to confirm the mysterious behavior of two stars more than 300 light-years from Earth.

Citizen science programs are increasingly popular for a variety of reasons, from public education to new opportunities for data collection. The literature published in scientific journals resulting from these projects represents a particular perspective on the process. These articles often conclude with recommendations for increasing "success".

Amateur contributions to professional publications have increased exponentially over the last decades in the field of Planetary Astronomy. Here we review the different domains of the field in which collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers are effective and regularly lead to scientific publications.


Astronomers are asking volunteers to help them search for "space warps." More commonly known as "gravitational lenses," these are rare systems with very massive galaxies or clusters of galaxies that bend light around them so that they act rather like giant lenses in space, creating beautiful mirages.

"Citizen science, in which volunteers work with professional scientists to conduct research, is expanding due to large online datasets. To plan projects, it is important to understand volunteers' motivations for participating. This paper analyzes results from an online survey of nearly 11,000 volunteers in Galaxy Zoo, an astronomy citizen science project. Results show that volunteers' primary motivation is a desire to contribute to scientific research. We encourage other citizen science projects to study the motivations of their volunteers, to see whether and how these results may be generalized to inform the field of citizen science." More

"This article describes a citizen-science project conducted by the Spanish Virtual Observatory (SVO) to improve the orbits of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) using data from astronomical archives. The list of NEAs maintained at the Minor Planet Center (MPC) is checked daily to identify new objects or changes in the orbital parameters of already catalogued objects. Using NEODyS we compute the position and magnitude of these objects at the observing epochs of the 938 046 images comprising the Eigth Data Release of the Sloan Digitised Sky Survey (SDSS). If the object lies within the image boundaries and the magnitude is brighter than the limiting magnitude, then the associated image is visually inspected by the project's collaborators (the citizens) to confirm or discard the presence of the NEA. If confirmed, accurate coordinates and, sometimes, magnitudes are submitted to the MPC." More

"Welcome to Planet Four, a citizen science project designed to help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars . . . the likes of which don't exist on Earth. All of the images on this site depict the southern polar region, an area of Mars that we know little about, and the majority of which have never been seen by human eyes before! We need your help to find and mark 'fans' and 'blotches' on the Martian surface. Scientists believe that these features indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking 'fans' and 'blotches' over the course of several Martian years to see how they form, evolve, disappear and reform, we can help planetary scientists better understand Mars' climate. We also hope to find out if these features form in the same spot each year and also learn how they change." More

"We report the latest Planet Hunter results, including PH2 b, a Jupiter-size (R_PL = 10.12 \pm 0.56 R_E) planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a solar-type star. PH2 b was elevated from candidate status when a series of false positive tests yielded a 99.9% confidence level that transit events detected around the star KIC 12735740 had a planetary origin. Planet Hunter volunteers have also discovered 42 new planet candidates in the Kepler public archive data, of which 33 have at least three transits recorded. Most of these transit candidates have orbital periods longer than 100 days and 20 are potentially located in the habitable zones of their host stars. Nine candidates were detected with only two transit events and the prospective periods are longer than 400 days. The photometric models suggest that these objects have radii that range between Neptune to Jupiter. These detections nearly double the number of gas giant planet candidates orbiting at habitable zone distances. We conducted spectroscopic observations for nine of the brighter targets to improve the stellar parameters and we obtained adaptive optics imaging for four of the stars to search for blended background or foreground stars that could confuse our photometric modeling. We present an iterative analysis method to derive the stellar and planet properties and uncertainties by combining the available spectroscopic parameters, stellar evolution models, and transiting light curve parameters, weighted by the measurement errors. Planet Hunters is a citizen science project that crowd-sources the assessment of NASA Kepler light curves. The discovery of these 43 planet candidates demonstrates the success of citizen scientists at identifying planet candidates, even in longer period orbits with only two or three transit events." More

The Herschel Space Observatory Needs You

"Astronomers using Europe's Herschel Space Observatory are asking the public to help find holes in the dust clouds that are threaded through our galaxy. By looking at the images from Herschel, combined with those from NASA's Spitzer satellite, members of the public are invited to join the science effort by helping to distinguish between dense clumps of cold dust and holes in the dusty clouds that are threaded through our galaxy. Dust clouds don't come in simple shapes, and so the process of distinguishing between dark clouds and holes is incredibly difficult to do. Luckily, the ideal tool is at hand: the human eye. The problem proved more complex than the team had anticipated. "The problem is that clouds of interstellar dust don't come in handy easy-to-recognize shapes", Derek explained. "The images are too messy for computers to analyze, and there are too many for us to go through ourselves". This is where the Zooniverse comes in, with its community of citizen scientists poised ready to help out. The new images are part of the Milky Way Project, which launched 2 years ago and, through the efforts of over 40,000 volunteers, has already created astronomy's largest catalogue of star-forming bubbles, as well as a plethora of nearby star clusters, distant galaxies and more. The Milky Way Project volunteers are excellent at measuring and mapping our galaxy." More

"A new program is giving middle-school-aged youth the chance to take remote control of a large, research-grade radio telescope and expand their cosmic explorations beyond what the eye can see. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory's (NRAO) 20-meter-diameter telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, is joining a global network of telescopes bringing the excitement of hands-on research to young people via 4-H, the nation's largest youth development organization. The program, funded by the National Science Foundation, will provide some 1,400 4-H youth with access to robotically-operated, research-grade telescopes. They will use the telescopes to survey galaxies, track asteroids, monitor variable stars, and learn first-hand how scientific research is done. The telescopes are part of a world-wide network called Skynet. In addition to the NRAO 20-meter radio telescope, the network also includes a 24-inch optical telescope at the University of North Carolina's Morehead Observatory; the 41-inch reflecting telescope at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin; six telescopes in Chile; and six more under construction in Chile and Australia." More

"Astronomers at the University of Utah and elsewhere are seeking volunteers to explore the galaxy next door, Andromeda. The newly launched Andromeda Project will use people power to examine thousands of Hubble Space Telescope images of the galaxy to identify star clusters that hold clues to the evolution of galaxies. "We want to get people excited about participating. We're hoping for thousands of volunteers," says Anil Seth, an organizer of the Andromeda Project and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah. "I love looking through these amazing Hubble Space Telescope images of Andromeda, the closest big spiral galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy," he adds. "The Andromeda Project will give lots of people the opportunity to share in that amazement." "Star clusters are groups of hundreds to millions of stars that formed from gas at the same time so all the stars have the same age," Seth says. A goal of the Andromeda Project "is to study the history of the galaxy, and these clusters play an important role." More

"NASA estimates more than 500,000 pieces of hazardous space debris orbit the earth, threatening satellites that support peacekeeping and combat missions. These objects include spent rocket stages, defunct satellites and fragments from other spacecraft that are the result of erosion, explosion and collision. A collision between one of these small pieces of debris and a satellite could release more than 20,000 times the energy of a head-on automobile collision at 65 mph. To help address the threat, DARPA created SpaceView, a space debris tracking project that provides amateur astronomers with the means to make a difference. Amateur astronomers will have their first opportunity to sign up in person for the program at the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo in Tucson, November 10-11, 2012." More

"The data presented in this paper are the result of the efforts of the Planet Hunters volunteers, without whom this work would not have been possible. Their contributions are individually ac- knowledged at http://www.planethunters.org/authors. We also acknowledge the following list of individuals who flagged one or more of the transit events on Talk discussed in this paper before or after discovery of the planet: Hans Martin Schwengeler, Dr. Johann Sejpka, and Arvin Joseff Tan." More

"Technology has radically changed the contributions that amateurs can make to the field of astronomy. Using a readily-available 'hobby' telescope, off-the-shelf camera and computer equipment, plus experienced observing skills, Emmanuel I. Kardasis of the Hellenic Amateur Astronomy Association has produced the first amateur albedo map of Jupiter's moon Ganymede. This demonstration has implications for the future role of amateur astronomers. The work will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid. An albedo map details higher areas of reflectivity on an object's surface recording where material is brighter or darker. Kardasis' albedo map closely aligns with professional images of Ganymede's surface, indicating features such as Phrygia Sulcus (furrows and ridges 3700km across) and the Nicholson region (a low-lying darker area)." More

Prepared remarks of Tom Kalil at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation April 12, 2012 Washington, DC

Good morning. Today I am going to be talking about Grand Challenges - ambitious yet achievable goals that capture the public's imagination and that require innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology to achieve. Some historical examples of Grand Challenges are President Kennedy's call to put a man on the moon or the Human Genome Project. More recently, we have seen decentralized, bottom-up efforts as well. Jimmy Wales defined the mission of Wikipedia as giving "freely the sum of the world's knowledge to every single person on the planet in the language of their choice." Today Wikipedia has almost 20 million articles in 282 languages and 365 million readers.

Citizen Scientists Reveal a Bubbly Milky Way

"A team of volunteers has pored over observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and discovered more than 5,000 "bubbles" in the disk of our Milky Way galaxy. Young, hot stars blow these bubbles into surrounding gas and dust, indicating areas of brand new star formation. Upwards of 35,000 "citizen scientists" sifted through the Spitzer infrared data as part of the online Milky Way Project to find these telltale bubbles. The volunteers have turned up 10 times as many bubbles as previous surveys so far."

SETI Live Is Now Online

TED, SETI Institute and Zooniverse Launch SETI LIVE to Empower Citizen Scientists to Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

"As part of the TED Prize Wish made by renowned astronomer Jill Tarter, the TED Prize today launches SETI Live (setilive.org): a site where - for the first time - the public can view data being collected by radio telescopes and collectively help search for intelligent life on other planets. TED, the nonprofit dedicated to Ideas Worth Spreading, established the TED Prize in 2005, born out of a vision by the world's leading entrepreneurs, innovators, and entertainers to turn ideas into action one Wish at a time. SETI Live was created in collaboration with Zooniverse team at Chicago's Adler Planetarium and is the latest development of Dr. Tarter's 2009 TED Prize wish, "to empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company."

Scientists study the 'galaxy zoo' using Google Maps and thousands of volunteers, FECYT

"More than two thirds of spiral galaxies, including our own Milky Way, display a central bar that can extend for thousands of light years. These colossal elongated structures are made up of collections of stars and dark matter which are held together by gravity. Now a team of researchers from Europe and the USA have measured the bar length of some 5000 galaxies with the help of amateur astronomers. The most precise results (those obtained for 3150 galaxies) have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal."

open.NASA.gov: Analyzing the vast amount of data that NASA brings back from its missions is an enormous task. In order to improve collaboration internally, as well as engage citizens in NASA's mission, the Open Government team is experimenting with different ways to process mission data quickly. The NASA OpenGov team has enlisted the help of established NASA partners Zooniverse and Vizzuality, who have pioneered the analysis of large datasets through crowdsourcing, using the power of elegant interfaces, to engage citizen scientists in the NEEMO mission.

Using a new platform which takes a square kilometer of ocean-bottom imagery and parses it out into an easily navigable, compelling user interface, we humbly ask you to help find scientifically relevant items, in order to allow us to outline them for a broad representation of the reef. Then, traverse planning scientists can then use this aggegated data to target, or confirm the interest items for further study. We can't do this kind of science on our own. We need your help today and again when we send humans beyond the surly bonds of Earth.

The spashdown of the crew on Thursday will also mark the official launch of our beta site at neemo.zooniverse.org, part of the new Zooniverse Labs arena. Please keep in mind that we are still in beta for the site, and the site may be down periodically. If you find this to be the case, check out the NEEMO mission page for a while and come back soon!

More information on open.NASA at at Crowdsourcing Science at NEEMO-15

Citizen Science Project at Pavilion Lake

New Citizen Science Project: Pavilion Lake Research Project

"Interested in helping scientists pinpoint where to look for signs of life on Mars? Now you can, with an exciting new citizen science website called MAPPER (getmapper.com) that was launched in conjunction with the Pavilion Lake Research Project's 2011 field season. The Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP, pavilionlake.com), which is supported by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, has been investigating the underwater environment of Pavilion and Kelly Lake in British Columbia, Canada with DeepWorker submersible vehicles (Nuytco Ltd, nuytco.com) since 2008. Now with MAPPER, you can work side-by-side with NASA scientists to explore the bottom of these lakes from the perspective of a DeepWorker pilot."

Citizen Science - Recreating Eratosthenes

SPACE brings Project 'Paridhi' on Equinox Day

"Starting on 23rd September on the Autumnal Equinox Day, Project 'Paridhi' initially will span across all the Asian countries in this Equinox. There will be a participation from India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Russia. The observation base will be extended to the whole globe by Winter Solstice in December 2011. This project is a showcase for proving that science can be best learnt by doing. On this day, SPACE has invited school students to witness the Autumn Equinox as it is one of the best occasions for all of us to celebrate this wonderful phenomenon using the ancient instruments at Jantar Mantar."

Planet Hunters: The First Two Planet Candidates Identified by the Public using the Kepler Public Archive Data

"Planet Hunters is a new citizen science project, designed to engage the public in an exoplanet search using NASA Kepler public release data. In the first month after launch, users identified two new planet candidates which survived our checks for false- positives. The follow-up effort included analysis of Keck HIRES spectra of the host stars, analysis of pixel centroid offsets in the Kepler data and adaptive optics imaging at Keck using NIRC2."

From the Comfort of Home, Web Users May Have Found New Planets, Yale University

"These three candidates might have gone undetected without Planet Hunters and its citizen scientists," said Meg Schwamb, a Yale researcher and Planet Hunters co-founder. "Obviously Planet Hunters doesn't replace the analysis being done by the Kepler team. But it has proven itself to be a valuable tool in the search for other worlds."

Think about this: One would think that with this announcement - one that comes on the heels of the Tatooine discovery last week - that the Kepler team would be working overtime on a way to throw more of its data out - sooner - such that they can harness the crowd-sourced power of interested citizens motivated to make a contribution to the discovery of worlds circling other stars. Not only does this help in times of limited budgets, it allows the citizenry a chance to truly participate in their space agency's exploration of the universe - and therein transform that formerly distant, lofty activity into a personal one. When things get personal, people tend to want to stand up and fight for those things.

Liquid Robotics Announces Pacific Crossing (PacX) Grand Challenge to Worldwide Science Community

"Liquid Robotics invites scientists to embark on a grand challenge journey with us as we cross the Pacific on a voyage of scientific discovery," said Ed Lu, chief of innovative applications at Liquid Robotics. "These Wave Gliders are much like small 'spacecraft' that open up new opportunities for robotic exploration. I challenge all scientists who are interested in advancing ocean exploration to take advantage of this unique opportunity. What scientific questions can we address with this new and unique data set?"

Think about this: There are proposed missions wherein spacecraft would be sent to Titan and place a vehicle on hydrocarbon lakes which they would then explore in a fashion similar to Wave Glider. Other concepts would send cryobots to tunnel through the icy crust of Europa, Enceladus, and other worlds and then explore the oceans that may exist beneath the surface. It is not at all surprising that former astronaut Ed Lu has joined Liquid Robotics to work on this project. NASA knows a lot about rovers and landers - but not a lot about sailing or diving vessels. Imagine what NASA could learn about operating vehicles that swim on alien worlds if they were to participate in this project.

N-Prize

N-prize: the world's smallest space programme

"The N-Prize has been described as 'the world's smallest space programme'. Launched in 2008, the N-Prize sets the near-impossible challenge of launching and tracking a tiny orbital satellite on a shoestring budget. "It's NASA for nuts," says its founder Dr. Paul H. Dear from Cambridge University. The N-Prize is meant to do for spaceflight what Steve Wozniak did for home computers when he built the first Apple in his garage. Enthusiasts around the world are about to prove that spaceflight doesn't have to be rocket-science, and that you don't need a billion dollar budget to launch a satellite, if only a tiny one."

Amateur Astronomers and the New Supernova

Amateur Astronomers Contribute Observations of the Brightest Supernova in 20 Years

"Skywatchers in the northern hemisphere are being treated to a rare, bright supernova in a nearby galaxy, and observers worldwide have the opportunity to contribute scientific data to our study of this object. This supernova, named SN 2011fe, exploded in the nearby spiral galaxy Messier 101 some time on August 24, 2011, and quickly became bright enough for backyard astronomers to observe with modest-sized telescopes. The supernova belongs to the class of objects called "Type Ia supernovae" that are caused by the explosion of a white dwarf in a binary star system."

First Steps Toward DIY Space in Africa

"This was a documentary filed by UBC/UTV television in regard to the first African Made aircraft, the African Skyhawk. Details can be found on ugandanway.com then you click on uiaa aircraft. The African Space research Program is the official developer of this project under UIAA, Uganda International Alien Association"

- Ugandan man wants to build space shuttle from scratch, io9
- African space research: Dreaming of a manned shuttle, BBC

Images: Opportunity Arrives At Endeavour Crater

"Opportunity had arrived at the western rim of 13-mile-diameter (21-kilometer-diameter) Endeavour crater four days earlier. A portion of the northeastern rim of Endeavour forms the distant horizon in this view. A crater about 66 feet (20 meters) in diameter is on the Endeavour rim near Opportunity's arrival point. From a position south of Odyssey, this view is dominated by a rock informally named "Ridout" on the northeastern rim of Odyssey. The rock is roughly the same size as the rover, which is 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) long."

Keith's note: It has been a long tradition among planetary scientists to name prominent features that their missions discover - if for no other reason than to make navigation easier. According to Mars rover principal investigator Steve Squyres: "None of these names are 'official' in any sense. Selecting the official names of features like craters on other planets is the purview of the International Astronomical Union. None of our names -- including the names of the craters -- are official IAU names. They are simply names that we have chosen out of necessity for use within the team during the mission. Unless you have some names to use for the things you're looking at and driving by, things get pretty confusing."

Why shouldn't these names be "official"? People have been naming places on Earth since people started to speak. Terrestrial exploration has a rich tradition of allowing the discoverers to name the things that they discover. There are lots of things that appear in these pictures that have yet to be named. Why can't everyone have a shot at naming things - including the taxpayers who paid for the missions? Why should naming things on other worlds be the "purview" of an elite group like the IAU - one that answers only to itself?

The Kepler science team announced on Aug. 12 the next release of data to the public archive. Quarter three science data collected during the months of September to December 2009 will be available for download on Sept. 23, 2011. Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in or near the "habitable zone," the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of the orbiting planet. Although additional observations will be needed over time to reach that milestone, Kepler is detecting planets and planet candidates with a wide range of sizes and orbital distances to help us better understand our place in the galaxy. More.

In a partnership between amateur and professional astronomers, the recent discovery of a dying star's last gasps could help resolve a decades-old debate among astronomers. That is, are stellar companions key to the formation and structure of planetary nebulae? The discovery, by Austrian amateur astronomer Matthias Kronberger, is featured at an International Astronomical Union symposium on planetary nebulae this week in Spain's Canary Islands. The research team's work features a striking image of the new nebula obtained with the Gemini Observatory. More

Currently, NASA has several ways the public can learn about ISS sighting opportunities, including NASA Sky Watch. However, NASA's websites do not disseminate this information to the public- the public must seek it out proactively instead.

NASA seeks to increase public awareness of the ISS, its visibility, and mission by making ISS sighting information, including personalized notifications, readily available to the general public in an easily accessible and understandable way. To that end, NASA seeks to collaborate with a domestic entity, on an unfunded basis, to support an ISS sighting notification tool.

Specifically, NASA seeks submissions for developing and releasing a tool to notify users from the general public, via email or Short Messenger Service (SMS) texts, when the ISS will pass overhead (i.e., when an ISS "sighting" will occur in the user's vicinity). Possible features include options (configured via a website) to: obtain location from IP geolocation, smartphone device geolocation, or user-entered location; specify time periods for notification (i.e., evening or morning passes only); specify minimum elevation (higher elevations are necessary to be seen by city dwellers); and specify minimum pass duration. Other features may involve depiction of ISS data integrated into existing presentation frameworks (e.g., attitude dependent skymaps on smartphones).

More

"As part of the NASA Open Government plan released on April 7,201 0, NASA announced more than 150 milestones related to integrating Open Government into the agencies programs and projects. To celebrate the one year anniversary of our plan, we've released a new infographic to communicate our first year of progress toward becoming more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. While we've set high goals, we're committed to incorporating open government into every facet of our mission. We have made great progress in some areas; others have taken longer than we anticipated and extra time is required to fully realize the goals. We hope this will clearly communicate our progress and keep you informed of new and exciting things within NASA. All of these goals are fluid - you'll see growth and movement as we work to determine the best path toward openness. If you have any questions or comments, we encourage you to visit our new NASA Open Government Initiative website at http://www.nasa.gov/open and share your ideas."

View the project status infographic.

Amateur astronomers, including Nick James of Chelmsford, Essex, England, have captured video of the interesting object. James generated his video of GP59 on the night of Monday, April 11. The video, captured with an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, is a compilation of 137 individual frames, each requiring 30 seconds of exposure. At the time, the asteroid was approximately 3,356,000 kilometers (2,081,000 miles) distant. Since then, the space rock has become something of a darling of the amateur astronomy community, with many videos available. Here is one recent posting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7wsAZNr56E

For the second consecutive year, high school students from across Australia joined in a competition to obtain scientifically useful (and aesthetically pleasing) images using the Gemini Observatory. The 2010 winning student team suggested that Gemini focus on an interacting galaxy pair which, they assured, "would be more than just a pretty picture." The spectacular result of this contest, organized by the Australian Gemini Office (AusGO), can be seen at http://www.gemini.edu/node/11625

Baruch Blumberg Passes Away, David Morrison, SETI Institute

"I was privileged to have lunch with Barry the day he died. He was attending a conference at Ames discussing exploration planning and its relationships with science and education. He presented a paper on the value of citizen science, where thousands of ordinary people can contribute significantly to science while also enjoying themselves in working with real spacecraft data, such as the high-resolution images now being received from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter."

Baruch Samuel Blumberg 1925-2011, earlier post

We performed an image search on Yahoo for "Comet Holmes" on 2010 April 1. Thousands of images were returned. We astrometrically calibrated---and therefore vetted---the images using the Astrometry.net system. The calibrated image pointings form a set of data points to which we can fit a test-particle orbit in the Solar System, marginalizing out image dates and catching outliers. The approach is Bayesian and the model is, in essence, a model of how comet astrophotographers point their instruments.

GLOBE at Night encourages citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of the night sky. During 2 weeks of moonless evenings, children and adults match the appearance of a constellation (Leo in the northern hemisphere and Crux or Leo in the southern hemisphere) with 7 star charts of progressively fainter stars found at http://www.globeatnight.org. Participants then submit their choice of star chart online with their date, time and location to help create a light pollution map worldwide.

The GLOBE at Night 2011 campaign dates are March 22-April 4, 2011, (for the Northern Hemisphere) and March 24-April 6, 2011, (for the Southern Hemisphere). Over 60,000 measurements have been contributed from more than 100 countries over the last 5 years of two-week campaigns.

This year children and adults can submit their measurements in real-time if they have a smart phone or tablet. To do this, use the web application at http://www.globeatnight.org/webapp/. With smart phones and tablets, the location, date and time are put in automatically. And if you do not have a smart phone or tablet, there are user-friendly tools on the GLOBE at Night report page to find latitude and longitude.

Through GLOBE at Night, students, teachers, parents and community members are amassing a data set from which they can explore the nature of light pollution locally and across the globe. Make a difference and join the GLOBE at Night efforts in 2011. Activity packets, one-page flyers and postcards advertising the campaign are available at http://www.globeatnight.org.

Please email any questions about GLOBE at Night to Connie Walker at cwalker@noao.edu.

The Climate at Home Project

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center ("GSFC") is looking to enter into a non-funded Space Act Agreement partnership for the development of a climate simulation system referred to hereafter as the "Climate@Home(TM) project." The Climate@Home(TM) project will build a virtual climate simulation supercomputer with contributions from citizens for both their idle computing cycles and local knowledge about climate change. The Climate@Home(TM) effort will be a major step towards developing a new quantitative system for prioritizing and designing a climate simulation system. It will spur a closer relationship between the climate science hypothesis (a climate model) and the design of the simulation system used to test that hypothesis. Additionally, it will allow for prior assessment of measurements against specific accuracy, coverage and biases we will be able to constrain within model parameterizations. The Climate@Home(TM) project will also contribute to the national and international effort to better understand climate change, prepare citizens for climate change, and support regional to global climate related policy and decision making. More

Poster presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference by N. G. Moss, T. M. Harper, M. B. Motta, A. D. Epps

"While some candidate craters were observed that appeared in LROC data but not in Lunar Orbiter data, these were all very near the edge of discernable feature size and are almost certainly explained by various differences between the images (e.g. sun angle or viewing geometry). While our initial search did not find any discernable new cratering, we have shown that data from the original analog Lunar Orbiter tapes, as recovered by the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery project, possesses the characteristics necessary to discern new craters at reasonably small sizes. If the entire Lunar Orbiter data set was recovered in this manner it may be possible for future researchers to apply automated methods to detect changes with much better chances of success." More

A citizen science project running for over 100 years reached a key milestone this month when an amateur astronomer contributed the 20 millionth observation of a variable star on February 19, 2011. A variable star changes in brightness over time. Records of these changes can be used to uncover the astrophysical processes within evolving star systems. With a database going back over a century, variable star astronomers have access to a data source unparalleled in astronomy.

Only days before the NASA Stardust spacecraft beamed home comet photos long awaited by astronomers, other researchers revealed the factors that motivated citizens to volunteer without pay to examine more than a million images of space dust captured by the spacecraft's predecessor.

The team of researchers headed by Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) Assistant Professor of Technology Management Oded Nov reported citizen astronomers were best motivated to spend unpaid hours looking for microscopic stardust particles by the project's objectives, the fun they experienced and the reaction they expected from their friends and family. Some of those motivations varied significantly from other crowd-sourced projects.

The iConference 2011, held February 8 - 11, 2011 in Seattle, chose "Dusting for Science: Motivation and Participation of Digital Citizen Science Volunteers" for its Best Paper Award. Co-authors are Nov, Ofer Arazy of the University of Alberta School of Business and David Anderson of Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley). A few days after the conference closed, on February 14, the second Stardust spacecraft beamed home its comet images. Meanwhile, thousands of volunteers have been sifting for years through 1.6 million series of digital images in search of interstellar dust captured by the predecessor Stardust spacecraft. That daunting volunteer project, called Stardust@home and headed by UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory Associate Director Andrew Westphal, was studied by Nov and his colleagues.

Students Excited by Stellar Discovery

In the constellation of Ophiuchus, above the disk of our Milky Way Galaxy, there lurks a stellar corpse spinning 30 times per second -- an exotic star known as a radio pulsar. This object was unknown until it was discovered last week by three high school students. These students are part of the Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) project, run by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Green Bank, WV, and West Virginia University (WVU). More

When astronomer John P. Huchra passed away in October 2010, his friends and colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) sought a way to honor his research and teaching legacies. One way has been the creation of a new interactive WorldWide Telescope (WWT) tour, "John Huchra's Universe," which was unveiled at the 217th AAS meeting in Seattle, Washington, on January 11, 2011, and is now available online. WWT is a free and very powerful interactive astronomy program from Microsoft Research.

Zooniverse Milky Way Project Update

The Milky Way Project has been live since December 7th and is still going strong, taking data from the Spitzer Space Telescope and asking you all to help us map the galaxy. If you haven't tried it out yet, visit http://www.milkywayproject.org. The Milky Way project volunteers have collectively classified more than 116,000 images. This involved marking a whopping 141,000 bubbles, 5,000 possible galaxies and 15,000 star clusters! Those are the raw numbers. When we combine all the individual drawings we find that you have created a catalogue of about 5,000 unique bubbles between you. This is about ten times larger than the current best published catalogue!

What is a Galaxy? Cast Your Vote Here

astro-ph arXiv:1101.3309: "Although originally classified as galaxies, Ultra Compact Dwarfs (UCDs) share many properties in common with globular star clusters. The debate on the origin and nature of UCDs, and the recently discovered ultra-faint dwarf spheroidal (dSph) galaxies which contain very few stars, has motivated us to ask the question `what is a galaxy?' Our aim here is to promote further discussion of how to define a galaxy and, in particular, what separates it from a star cluster. Like most previous definitions, we adopt the requirement of a gravitationally bound stellar system as a minimum. In order to separate a dwarf galaxy from a globular cluster, we discuss other possible requirements, such as a minimum size, a long two-body relaxation time, a satellite system, the presence of complex stellar populations and non-baryonic dark matter. We briefly mention the implications of each of these definitions if they are adopted. Some special cases of objects with an ambiguous nature are also discussed. Finally, we give our favoured criteria, and in the spirit of a 'collective wisdom', invite readers to vote on their preferred definition of a galaxy via a dedicated website." [survey website link below]

Citizen Satellites

"Ever since sputnik kicked off the age of space satellites more than fifty years ago, big institutions have dominated the skies. Almost all the many thousands of satellites that have taken their place in Earth orbit were the result of huge projects funded by governments and corporations. For decades each generation of satellites has been more complicated and expensive than its predecessor, taken longer to design, and required an infrastructure of expensive launch facilities, global monitoring stations, mission specialists and research centers." More at Scientific American (via Kentucky Space)

"Dear Colleagues: Dr. Bonnie Buratti and I are members of the DAWN science team and we are in the process of generating a photometric model of 4 Vesta in anticipation of spacecraft rendezvous in August 2011. Ground-based photometry of V-type asteroids (Vestoids) over a wide range of solar phase angles would be extremely useful in constraining our model.

We have identified three Vestoids that are well-placed for observation during spring of 2011: 1981 Midas, 4668 (1980 WF), and 137052 (1998 VO3). All three are near-Earth asteroids and all three should be brighter than V~18 for a significant portion of their apparitions. 4888 (1980 WF) remains near the ecliptic throughout the apparition while 137052 (1998 VO33) and 1981 Midas will be best observed from the northern and southern hemispheres, respectively. Photometry would likely have to be accurate to 0.1 mag to be useful although more precise photometry (preferably to 0.01 mag) would allow us to subtract rotational lightcurve effects.

If you would like to join us in this project we would most welcome your help. Please contact Michael.Hicks@jpl.nasa.gov and of course any collaborators would be coauthors on any publication that utilizes the data." [Source: Planetary Exploration Newsletter]

N. G. Moss1 and T. M. Harper2, M. B. Motta3, A. Epps4
1LOIRP Project P.O. Box 375 Moffett Field, CA 94035, Neulynm-at-yahoo.com, 2 LOIRP Project P.O. Box 375 Moffett Field, CA 94035, travis.martin.harper-at-gmail.com. 3 LOIRP Project P.O. Box 375 Moffett Field, CA 94035. Mbmotta-at-yahoo.com., 4Skycorp, Building 596, NASA Ames Research Park, Moffett Field, CA 94035, Austin.epps-at-gmail.com

Submitted to 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference:

Introduction: In 1966 and 1967 NASA sent five Lunar Orbiters to photograph nearly the full surface of the moon. Each orbiter launched took images of different areas of the moons surface, or very high resolution images corresponding to lower resolution images previously taken. Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) is one of the several projects using these images for research. We are in possession of 1,478 2" original analog tapes from 3 Deep Space Network ground stations. We have taken hundreds of those analog tapes and converted them to digital form; with the majority of them being from Lunar Orbiter II which took images with .8 to 1 meter resolution.

With them in digital form we are able to assemble the framelets in high quality and overlay them with Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Narrow Angle Camera (LROC_NAC), which has a similar resolution of .5 to 1 meter. The overlays enable us to compare the two images looking for change, specifically new craters. The finding of new craters will help us determine the age of older craters by looking at the baseline color of the regolith from known dates between the Lunar Orbiter and LROC images. The craters found per unit area will also provide a boundary on the current small body population of the inner solar system.

Full paper

Open Innovation Support at NASA JSC

NASA Solicitation: Open Innovation Support Services for Internal Collaboration Support Platform and Intermediary

"NASA/JSC has a requirement for Open Innovation Support Services for internal collaboration support platform and intermediary to provide the capability for NASA employees to collaborate within and across the NASA organizations promoting internal collaboration and the identification of solutions to internal challenges by internal personnel and expertise. NASA/JSC intends to purchase the items from InnoCentive, Inc. InnoCentive, Inc. has the required infrastructure and personnel required to support the internal based platform and has an experience base that included an internet based ".com" and an internal based platform. Use of any other system would require duplication of work and loss of existing infrastructure that has already been designed for NASA, tested, validated and approved. The loss of infrastructure cannot be recovered through competition without substantial duplication of time, costs and risk to timely and successful implementation." More

NASA Solicitation: Open Innovation Support Services for a Consortium Network Builder Platform Provider

"NASA/JSC plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the following Commercial item/services: Open Innovation Support Services for a consortium/network builder platform provider to possess an extensive network of partners external to NASA to engage in collaboration in support of human spaceflight technology needs." More

NASA Solicitation: Open Innovation Support Services for an External Crowd Sourcing Platform

"NASA/JSC plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the following Commercial item/services: Open Innovation Support Services for an external crowd sourcing platform that supports the ability to publically post challenges (external to NASA) and facilitate interaction with an extensive solver network." More

STScI Space Astronomy Summer Program

Each summer, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) brings a dozen highly motivated college students to Baltimore, Maryland, for a Space Astronomy Summer Program. The Space Telescope Science Institute is the scientific operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and for the future James Webb Space Telescope. The Space Astronomy Summer Program runs ten weeks, from mid-June to mid-August, and is designed for upper division undergraduates with a strong interest in space astronomy. Students work individually with STScI researchers and staff on research projects that might include data reduction and interpretation, software development, scientific writing, preparing data for public releases. The program affords students the opportunity to attend lectures on a variety of exciting topics related to space astronomy, the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes. The Space Astronomy Summer Program provides students a fun educational experience within a team spirited environment. Students will receive a stipend of $5200 for the summer and housing assistance. More information

Johan H. Knapen: "Both professional and amateur astronomers have been studying the skies for centuries. Their respec- tive roles, however, have changed considerably. In the 18th and 19th century, for instance, one of the main tasks of professional astronomers was to calculate astronomical data to be used by the merchant fleet and the military, and to provide the society at large with important data such as the times of sunrise and sunset and, in fact, time itself. Amateur astronomers meanwhile entertained themselves with what most astronomers might now consider more interesting activities, such as discovering planets and comets, and observing nebulae. Well-known amateurs include Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) who discovered several comets, and her brother William (1738-1822) who discovered Uranus, several moons of that planet and of Saturn, created a catalogue of nebulae (a term used at the time to describe any extended object), and observed double stars. He constructed hundreds of telescopes, and made a number of important discoveries related to light and radiation. Needless to say, amateur astronomers at the time were wealthy individuals.

"For amateur astronomers, discovering a supernova is a significant and rare feat. For a 10-year-old amateur to do it -- well, that's astronomical. Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredericton, N.B. is basking in the spotlight after noticing what was later determined to be a magnitude 17 supernova, or exploding star, on New Year's Eve. It's in the distant galaxy UGC 3378, about 240 million light years away, in the constellation of Camelopardalis. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says Kathryn is the youngest person to make such a discovery, which was soon verified by amateur astronomers in Illinois and Arizona. The finding has been reported to, confirmed and announced by the International Astronomical Union." More at the Toronto Star

"An amateur astronomer is over the moon after discovering four new planets in his spare time at home. Peter Jalowiczor, 45, has never owned a telescope but still managed to provide scientists with enough information to establish the existence of four gaseous orbs outside the solar system. The gas worker from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, has been officially named by the University of California's Lick-Carnegie Planet Search Team as the co-discoverer of planets HD31253b, HD218566b, HD177830c and HD99492c." More at the Mail Online

A Christmas present from Galaxy Zoo

Dear Galaxy Zoo: Thanks to your hard work, we've managed to classify most of the galaxies that were in our original batch of images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Don't worry, though, because from today there are fresh, never before seen galaxies added to the interface at www.galaxyzoo.org.

Web users around the globe will be able to help professional astronomers in their search for Earth-like planets thanks to a new online citizen science project called Planet Hunters that launches December 16 at http://www.planethunters.org.

Planet Hunters, which is the latest in the Zooniverse citizen science project collection, will ask users to help analyze data taken by NASA's Kepler mission. The space telescope has been searching for planets beyond our own solar system -- called exoplanets -- since its launch in March 2009.

Citizen science has been around for centuries, with lay people collecting data and making observations for scientists in a variety of fields. And, citizen scientists are contributing to discoveries as much in the 21st century as ever before.

Idle computers are the astronomers' playground: Three citizen scientists--an American couple and a German--have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries. This is the first genuine astronomical discovery by a public volunteer distributed computing project. The details of their discovery and the process of getting there are revealed in a paper published in the Aug. 12 edition of Science Express.

The new pulsar--called PSR J2007+2722--is a neutron star that rotates 41 times per second. It is in the Milky Way, approximately 17,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Vulpecula. Unlike most pulsars that spin as quickly and steadily, PSR J2007+2722 sits alone in space, and has no orbiting companion star. Astronomers consider it especially interesting since it is likely a recycled pulsar that lost its companion. However they cannot rule out that it may be a young pulsar born with an lower-than-usual magnetic field.

Chris and Helen Colvin, of Ames, Iowa, and Daniel Gebhardt, of Universitaet Mainz, Musikinformatik, Germany, are credited with this discovery. Their computers, along with half a million others from around the world, are harnessed to analyze data for Einstein@Home (volunteers contribute about two computers each).

Einstein@Home--based at the Center for Gravitation and Cosmology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Albert Einstein Institute (AEI), Hannover, Germany--has been searching for gravitational waves in data from the U.S. based LIGO (Large Interferometer Gravitational Observatory) since 2005. Starting in March of 2009, Einstein@Home also began searching for signals from radio pulsars in astronomical observations from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Arecibo, a National Science Foundation (NSF) facility operated by Cornell University, is the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. About one-third of Einstein@Home's computing capacity is used to search Arecibo data.

Seventh Graders Find a Cave on Mars

NASA: California middle school students using the camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter have found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a cave. The students in science teacher Dennis Mitchell's class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., were examining Martian lava tubes as their project in the Mars Student Imaging Program offered by NASA and Arizona State University. Students in this program develop a geological question, then target a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image that helps answer the question. Mars Odyssey has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2001, returning data and images of the Martian surface and providing relay communications service for the twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. See full story

NASA is seeking private and corporate sponsors for the Centennial Challenges, a program of incentive prizes designed for the "citizen inventor" that generates creative solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation. NASA is looking for companies, organizations or individuals interested in sponsoring the non-profit allied organizations that manage the prize competitions.

Since 2005, NASA has conducted 19 competitions in six challenge areas and awarded $4.5 million to 13 different teams. Each of the challenges is managed by non-profit organizations in partnership with NASA.

NASA provides prize purses for the challenges but not the funds to conduct the competitions. A group of allied organizations conducts and manages the competitions, typically raising additional funds through partnerships with private and corporate sponsors.

Potential sponsors can be for-profit companies and corporations, universities and other non-profit or educational organizations, professional or public organizations, and individuals. Those interested in discussing sponsorship opportunities should respond to a Request for Information at: http://prod.nais.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/eps/synopsis.cgi?acqid=141911

Allied organizations generally seek sponsorships of all monetary sizes and in-kind contributions while providing public recognition to competition sponsors. Arrangements for competition sponsorships will be negotiated directly between the allied organizations and the sponsors and may include naming rights for significant contributors.

Centennial Challenge events typically include public audiences and are televised or broadcast over the Internet via streaming video. The competitions provide high-visibility opportunities for public outreach and education. There are three on-going Centennial Challenges, with several new challenges expected to be announced this year.

For additional information on the program, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/challenges

More than 37 years after humans last walked on the moon, planetary scientists are inviting members of the public to return to the lunar surface as "virtual astronauts" to help answer important scientific questions. No spacesuit or rocket ship is required - all visitors need to do is go to www.moonzoo.org and be among the first to see the lunar surface in unprecedented detail. New high-resolution images, taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), offer exciting clues to unveil or reveal the history of the moon and our solar system.

Amateurs Track Storm on Saturn

Cassini and Amateurs Chase Storm on Saturn

"With the help of amateur astronomers, the composite infrared spectrometer instrument aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft has taken its first look at a massive blizzard in Saturn's atmosphere. The instrument collected the most detailed data to date of temperatures and gas distribution in that planet's storms."

Join the Lunar and Planetary Institute on April 21, 2010, for a live video webcast with Delia Santiago. She will discuss an exciting new citizen scientist program called MoonZoo. The rest of the conversation is up to you!

Santiago is the digital science strategist for the NASA Lunar Science Institute based at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. She works with interactive media and science collaboration tools to engage both the public and researchers inside and outside of NASA. Prior to joining the NLSI, Santiago worked at NASA's Ames Research Center with both the NASA CoLab program and the Life Science Payloads.

The MyMoon webcast begins at 8 p.m. EDT. Connect to the webcast at: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/mymoon/?p=p_santiago.cfm.

MyMoon (http://mymoon.lpi.usra.edu) is supported by funding from NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

ESA Uses Gaming Technology To Explore

ESA Highlights Online Games as Key Future Technology

"Video gaming has become one of the globe's most popular pastimes. Fans say games are often educational, their detractors answer they are anything but. Might ESA have something to learn from gaming? A new Agency study says the answer is yes. It comes from ESA's Technology Observatory, which is tasked with scanning non-space sectors to look for developments with potential for spin-in or joint research. The study, Online Game Technology for Space Education and System Analysis, looks at potential applications of different online game-playing technologies from the simplest content-oriented games through to Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) virtual worlds."

Probe may have found cosmic dust, BBC

"The discovery was made by a member of the public, using the Stardust@Home internet application, which invited participants to search the aerogel collection medium for tiny particles of the dust. "There are two particles, but they are in the same track. So when they hit the aerogel, they were together - they are two components of the same particle," Dr Westphal told BBC News. "But they are very different from each other. That in itself is interesting, because if this does turn out to be interstellar dust, then it is a bit more heterogeneous than people thought." The initial speck, known as particle 30, was spotted by Bruce Hudson, from Ontario in Canada. Under the agreement made between the science team and participants in Stardust@Home, Mr Hudson was allowed to choose a name for the particle; he called it Orion."

The most powerful camera aboard a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars will soon be taking photo suggestions from the public.

Since arriving at Mars in 2006, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has recorded nearly 13,000 observations of the Red Planet's terrain. Each image covers dozens of square miles and reveal details as small as a desk. Now, anyone can nominate sites for pictures.

"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," said Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the camera and a researcher at the University of Arizona.

The idea to take suggestions from the public based on the original concept of the HiRISE instrument, when its planners nicknamed it "the people's camera." Scientists anticipate that more people will become interested in exploring the Red Planet as their suggestions for imaging targets increase the camera's already bountiful science return. Despite the thousands of pictures already taken, less than one percent of the Martian surface has been photographed.