Are We Alone? Citizen Science and the Search for Exoplanets

By Kristin Butler July 20th, 2016 at 9:56 am | Comment

Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser CC BY 4.0

Recently I attended a lecture by award-winning astronomy professor Dr. Andrew Fraknoi, who spoke about the most exciting research happening in astronomy today. He said that while black holes and gravity waves are interesting, the research he finds most intriguing is the search for planets in other solar systems, called exoplanets.

What sets exoplanet research apart, he said, is that it takes us a step closer to answering the fundamental question humans have always wondered … are we alone?

I was excited by his statement because I also recently met a couple of scientists at Mauna Kea’s Keck Observatory in Hawaii who have created a new citizen science project—called Project PANOPTES—focused on the search for exoplanets. Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Science in SPAAAAAACE!

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) July 14th, 2016 at 11:42 pm | Comment

Photo: NASA
Heavenly Citizen Science
“80% of North Americans cannot see the Milky Way because of the effects of artificial lighting,” according to The Guardian. Measure light pollution near you this week and contribute to this important research. Or, if you’re lucky enough to see the heavens, there’s a citizen science project in need of your observations. Our editors highlight seven, out-of-this-world projects, below. Find even more projects with the SciStarter Global Project Finder.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Photo: NASA
Target Asteroids!
Do you take pictures of asteroids? If so, consider sharing them! Photographing asteroids through a telescope and sharing your images will advance understanding of the asteroids near our planet.

Photo: Dora Miller
Aurorasaurus

The Northern and Southern lights offer some of the most breathtaking views on earth. If you have a chance to witness them, you can report your observations. Volunteers can also verify reports from social media.

Photo: Olivier Guyon
PANOPTES
School and community groups interested in astronomy can purchase a high-tech robotic telescope that can be used to search for planets in other solar systems. It’s a great way for dedicated citizen scientists to increase their viewing power.

Photo: Bill Ingalls
American Meteor Society- Meteor Observing
Reporting meteors is easy with this project. You can enter your observation online or use a smartphone app. With the data you provide, scientists can plot meteor trajectories.

Photo: NASA
GLOBE at Night
If you’re not seeing stars and meteors when you look into the night sky, it could be because of light pollution. With this project, you can measure the brightness of the night sky in your area and learn how light from urban areas impacts stargazing, ecology, and more.

Photo: DDQ
Dark Sky Meter
With just the camera on your phone and an iPhone app, you can collect data on light pollution and contribute to a global map of sky brightness.

Photo: Royal Society of Chemistry
Mission: Starlight
If you’re interested in space travel but not in stargazing, this is the project for you! A global experiment is being discovered to determine which substances can best protect astronauts from harmful UV rays in space, and you can participate!

Want to learn more about the field of citizen science?

Do you run a project that requires tools (telescope, sensor, rain gauge)? We want to hear from you! Please take this brief survey.

Categories: Citizen Science

Crowdsource Your Data Collection?

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) July 6th, 2016 at 9:32 am | Comment

Here are some excerpts from a recent article about SciStarter, as originally published by Environmental BioPhyics, “a group of scientists passionate about measuring the environment.”

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Measuring and Modeling the Environment

Credit: EnvironmentalPhyics.org

Credit: EnvironmentalPhyics.org

Crowdsource Your Data Collection?

What can you do when you need data from all over the world in a short amount of time?  Many scientists, including ones at JPL/NASA, are crowdsourcing their data collection.

Darlene Cavalier, Professor of Practice at Arizona State University is the founder of SciStarter, a website where scientists make data collection requests to a community of volunteers who are interested in collecting and analyzing data for scientific research.

Cavalier is determined to create pathways between citizen science and citizen science policy. She says, “The hope is after people engage in citizen science projects, they will want to participate in deliberations around related science policy. Or perhaps policy decision makers will want to be part of the discovery process by contributing or analyzing scientific data.”  Darlene has partnered with Arizona State University and other organizers to form a very active network called Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST).  This group seeks to unite citizens, scientific experts, and government decision makers in discussions evaluating science policy. Cavaliers says, “The process allows us to discover ethical and societal issues that may not come up if there were only scientists and policy makers in a room.  It’s a network which allows us to take these conversations out of Washington D.C.  The conversations may originate and ultimately circle back there, but the actual public deliberations are held across the country, so we get a cross-section of input from different Americans.” ECAST has been contracted by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Energy, and others to explore specific policy questions that would benefit from the public’s input.

Overcoming Obstacles

Another obstacle to some types of research is access to instrumentation.  Darlene comments, “The NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) project really opened our eyes to how many obstacles can exist between the spectrum of recruiting, training, equipping, and fully engaging a participant.”  This year, SciStarter is building a database of citizen science tools and instruments and will begin to create the digital infrastructure to map tools to people and projects through a “Build, Borrow, Buy” function on project pages.

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“The NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) project really opened our eyes to how many obstacles can exist to full engagement.”

What’s Next?

Darlene says that sometimes scientists who want accurate data without knowing about or identifying a particular sensor for participants to use often create room for data errors.   To address this problem, SciStarter and Arizona State University will be hosting a Citizen Science Maker summit this fall where scientists, citizen scientists, and commercial developers of instrumentation will meet to determine if it’s possible to fill gaps to develop and scale access to inexpensive, modular instruments that could be used in different types of research.  You can learn more about crowdsourcing your data collection with SciStarter here.

Read the full article: Crowdsource Your Data Collection?

SciStarter founder and Professor at ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society appointed to EPA Advisory Council.

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) July 3rd, 2016 at 11:14 am | Comment

Darlene Cavalier headshotSciStarter founder and Professor at School for the Future of Innovation in Society at ASU , appointed to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Advisory Council .

Darlene Cavalier has been invited to serve as a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology. The council provides independent advice to the agency’s Administrator on environmental-policy, technological and management issues. Cavalier will represent ASU’s Center for Engagement & Training in Science & Society (CENTSS) and will serve for two years.

Cavalier spoke at the White House Water Summit in March regarding two initiatives she leads: SciStarter and Science Cheerleader. Cavalier also appeared in an interview for SciTech Now , in which she spoke about the great variety of opportunities for citizens to contribute to ongoing scientific projects available through SciStarter.

The Science Cheerleaders (current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders who are also scientists and engineers) frequently engage people in these citizen science opportunities.

 

rightful place of science coverInterested in learning more about Citizen Science? Order a copy of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, (Cavalier, Kennedy 2016). It’s been called “the best introduction to the dynamic landscape of citizen science and those seeking to expand its boundaries. ” Bill Nye the Science Guy agrees: “Do you look at the world around you and try to figure out what’s going on? Do you like to think? You can do citizen science. Start with this book.” Now available on Amazon.com 

Categories: In the News

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Using Citizen Science to Track Sevengill Sharks

By Guest July 1st, 2016 at 6:24 pm | Comment

Sevengill Shark "Notorynchus cepedianus" by José María Pérez Nuñez

Sevengill Shark “Notorynchus cepedianus” by José María Pérez Nuñez CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Guest post by Mike Bear

The San Diego-based non-profit Ocean  Sanctuaries was founded in 2014 to create and provide support for marine citizen science projects. The Sevengill Shark Identification Project was one of its first citizen science projects, begun in 2010 in response to anecdotal evidence that divers were seeing increasing numbers Sevengill sharks off the coast of San Diego. This made the species an ideal candidate for a long-term 5-10 year) population study.

The Sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus), named for having seven gill slits on either side of its body, as opposed to the normal 5 gills,  reaches lengths of  3 m with an average length of 1.5 m. They weigh up to 107 kg and are known to live as long as 49 years.1 Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Citizen Science

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