Citizen Science: Helping Make New Discoveries

October 14, 2014

Sometimes it is hard to concentrate at work. Your mind wanders, you feel a bit restless—the next thing you know, you’ve spent 2 hours on Buzzfeed. But fear not! Here are some great sites to peruse when you’re bored! And unlike Buzzfeed, you will leave them feeling like a smarter, more engaged person!

  • The Space Place—For the kid in all of us. Play games like Greenhouse Gas Attack and learn more about our planet!
  • Mars Exploration: Billion Pixel View from Curiosity at Rocknest—Spend a few minutes enjoying this panoramic view of Mars taken by the Curiosity Rover. You can even see the spacecraft’s tire tracks.
  • Hubblesite—This site has videos, podcasts, quizzes and much, much more. It’s a great way to spend a few hours learning about astronomy!

But of course we were being a bit silly in the introduction to this post. Of course avoiding work is not the only reason for spending some time on the Internet. The Internet is a vast place; there is so much great stuff out there to explore! One especially great thing is the opportunity to take part in citizen science. Citizen science is when top-level research facilities like NASA observatories welcome the input of ordinary people like you and me.

For the most part, citizen scientists contribute by looking at pictures of different objects—galaxies, weather systems, etc. A brief introductory tutorial teaches the participant how to identify these objects. For example, at the Galaxy Zoo website visitors look at pictures of galaxies and classify them by shape. It is a great way to feel part of something much bigger than yourself. By contributing to these endeavors, citizen scientists become part of space exploration.

Here are some astronomy-related sites, but there are many other types, including meteorology and wildlife identification. The Zooniverse has a more complete listing of citizen science opportunities.

  • Galaxy Zoo—Help astronomers classify different galaxies and astronomical objects. Includes a discussion forum to connect with citizen scientists around the world.
  • Disk Detective—Identify different types of debris
  • Planet Four—Assist with the exploration of Mars by analyzing dust patches

Explore! Learn! Have fun!