Freaking awesome Citizen Science projects in Astronomy

It’s possible to identify black holes, solar flares, and asteroids before some scientists can. You could even be on the ground level of a new planetary or galaxy discovery. And, when stuff like this happens, you would get proper credit for your assist – published in scientific journals or articles that could potentially go viral!

discovering a planet

I just discovered one of the coolest nature sites on the web. It’s called Zooniverse, and it’s a collection of some of the most influential and ground-breaking citizen science projects in the world. Besides the fact that you get credit for what you do, you can learn a ton of information about your favorite science – from astronomy to marine biology and everything in between – just by participating in these citizen science projects. This is huge for those trying to land a career in these areas, and a nifty idea for those who use science as a hobby.

Why citizen science?

The amount of data collected by modern research equipment is often too large for any one person or small team of people to effectively analyze. Over the past several decades, scientists have explored partnering with the public to help do real science when human eyes and thinking are still better at analysis than computers.

The Zooniverse Citizen Science department designs and develops web applications using data sets that would normally take a science team over 100 years to analyze and, with the help of a worldwide network of volunteers (over 1.3 million!), complete the analysis with a high level of accuracy in weeks or months.

tardis in space

So, since I’m a bit of an astro-nerd, my favorite projects in the Zooniverse – which I have selected here – is all about astronomy. Some are a bit cooler than others (and I’ll let you decide which ones they are), but they are all worth mentioning. Two of the projects on the site were too lamo to mention, so they didn’t make the cut. Just the totally awesome ones are here:

GALAXY ZOO:

Galaxy Zoo 1

Experience a privileged glimpse of the distant universe as observed by the SDSS, the Hubble Space Telescope, and UKIRT.

To understand how galaxies are formed, your help is needed to classify them according to their shapes. If you’re quick, you may even be the first person to see the galaxies you’re asked to classify!

SOLAR STORMWATCH:

Solar Stormwatch

Help scientists spot explosions on the Sun and track them across space to Earth. Your work will give astronauts an early warning if dangerous solar radiation is headed their way. And… you could make a new scientific discovery!

THE MILKYWAY PROJECT:

The Milkyway Project

Your help is needed to look through tens of thousands of images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. By telling them what you see in this infrared data, scientists can better understand how stars form.

PLANET FOUR:

Planet Four

This project is designed to help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars. By tracking these features over the course of several Martian years, we can help scientists better understand Mars’ climate.

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!

 DISK DETECTIVE:

Disk Detective

Help discover the birthplace of planets in never-before seen data!

This is a NASA mission surveying the whole sky in infrared. You will help search for stars with hidden disks of dust around them, similar to the asteroid belt. These stars will show us where to look for planetary systems and how they form.

RADIO GALAXY ZOO:

Radio Galaxy Zoo

Astronomers need your help to discover supermassive black holes!

Astronomers have a good understanding of how small black holes (those that are several to tens of times more massive than our Sun) are formed. The picture is less clear for supermassive black holes found in the center of galaxies. In order to better understand how these black holes form and evolve over time, astronomers need to observe many of them at different stages of their life-cycles. To do this, they need to find them first! That’s where you come in.

SUNSPOTTER:

Sunspotter

Your help is needed to organize sunspot images in order of complexity to better understand and predict how the Sun’s magnetic activity affects us on Earth.

ASTEROID ZOO:

Asteroid Zoo

There are asteroids out there right now! Today, there are 681,212 known asteroids in our Solar System. You might be the one to find the next asteroid. With every image set that gets analyzed, you could find an actual asteroid! Scientists need to know where they are to plan for the future. They’ll use the results of this project to find near Earth asteroid (NEA) candidates that will be used in scientific papers and research.

So pick a citizen science project and get started! You never know what you might help discover…

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