Sunday, July 04, 2010

Astronomy - a plea to amatuer astronomers

Listening to the NPR app this morning I heard a couple of pleas from a few different stories for all of us - the general public to help figure out space.


Image from NASA.


It was more specific than that, but the gist was that there are not enough professionals to handle mapping and understanding the universe. Now that's a very tall order. I don't expect to be able to contribute as much as I'd like to, but this is a huge wake up call.

I enjoy the documentaries and museums that chronicle our journeys in to space. Our thoughts on time, worm holes, living and working on the moon and Mars. But I've been assuming that there are plenty of people doing this work.


Moon Mapping

This actual call, in what feels like the next version of SETI at home, asks people to help map the surface of the moon. After a little training, a person is tasked to identify the craters. It sounds like a video game. If they turned it into a social networking game on Facebook, they'd probably have a hit and have it all mapped out in a month or two. Click click click. Sounds like Moonville to me.



Well, surprise. It is Moonville or actually Moon Zoo. Part of a hugely popular (300,000 or so of my dear close friends) social networking project called Zooniverse! 

Heads Up, Citizen Scientists: The Moon Needs You!

Enter Oxford astrophysicist Chris Lintott. He's asking amateur astronomers to help review, measure and classify tens of thousands of moon photos streaming to Earth. He has set up the website MoonZoo.org, where anyone can log on, get trained and become a space explorer.
"We need anybody and everybody," Lintott tells NPR's Guy Raz on Weekend All Things Considered.


Jupiter's Missing Belt

This article drove home the missing group of professionals. It encourages the amateur astronomers to continue to inspect the sky. The comment that the amateurs all very well equipped reminds me of the huge telescope my father used to have. He took a few astronomy classes when I was a kid and was able to show me the planets from my own driveway.

Lost: Planet-Sized Belt. If Found, Return To Jupiter
"There aren't enough professionals to keep track of everything going on in the universe all the time," Beatty says. "So in a sense, they rely on amateur astronomers — who have very good equipment, by the way — to actually keep an eye on things."
"When they see something, they notify the professionals, and the big guns get swung over to take a look."



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