5 Ways to Help Space Science While Still in Your PJ’s

I’ve always been a sucker for anything space. From the gorgeous views Hubble has offered us, to the cosmic mystery of the universe’s origin, I can’t help but be captivated.

So in thinking about showcasing some cool ways anyone can get involved in science, this immediately pops up as a prime candidate. Let’s look then at a few interesting ones I found today while browsing the fantastic site scistarter.com (how did I not know of this site before?!). I recommend that all who get a hankering for the mysteries of our cosmos check these out below as well as Scistarter for other events. Most of the projects here are also ZooInverse projects, which is also a great platform to get involved on.

And the best part of all this? You don’t even have to get dressed to participate!

1 – Planet Hunting

Who doesn’t love exoplanets? And how cool would it be to say that you discovered a new planet? Well, that’s actually a reasonable possibility over at Planet Hunters. By looking at light curves taken of stars by the Kepler spacecraft , users can help identify what may be the transits of planets in front of that star. Users have already found quite a few, so why not give it a try and see if you spot something close to home?

2 – Cities at Night

At some point, we’ve all probably seen one of the many beautiful night-time city shots taken from the International Space Station  (ISS), but did you know there are actually thousands of such images to go through? Enter the Cities at Night project which aims to “create a Google maps style map of the world using night photographs taken by astronauts on the ISS.” Users help locate and geotag cities on the site, helping contribute to a night-sky map of the world as well as a better understanding of light pollution.

3 – The Milky Way Project

If you’re like me and tend to set the colorful whisps and stars of galaxies, supernovas, and stellar dust clouds as your computer background, then this one is for you. At the Milky Way Project you can browse a myriad of said space scenery helping to identify galaxies, star clusters, space bubbles, and more taken of the Milky Way by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Perhaps most intriguing is that the site allows an “other” tool for noting objects we might not have seen before. In other words, space is a big place, and it’s entirely possible that you discover something entirely new and previously unknown to us.

4 – Planet Four

The adventurers out there might be interested in the new and largely uncharted territory of the 4th planet from the sun — Mars. It’s easy to forget just how many stunning images we have of the Martian surface, but this is where Planet Four comes in. At Planet Four, you can explore the exotic polar regions of Mars and help scientists identify interesting geographical formations on the Red Planet, such as those possibly created by the melting of dry ice across Mar’s seasons. But then again, you may be the first to lay eyes on this place, so perhaps you’ll find something special.

5 – Space Warps

We often think of the warping of space-time as some fancy science fiction concept, and yet at SpaceWarps.org that’s exactly what you can help astronomers find. And it’s real science! By scouring through images of far off galaxies, you can help scientists find unique occurrences in space called “gravitational lenses.” These lenses can be found as massive galaxies which literally warp the light passing by them, a feat that allows astronomers to look behind the galaxy and see far off into space (and thus into past!). Crazy, cool, and true — all good ingredients for an interesting project.

Get Involved!

Remember that all of these projects require no special background knowledge, no fancy equipment (just a plain ol’ computer), and no major commitments. You can try these projects out on and off at your leisure to see if it’s something you’d like to help out with. And feel free to check out the background on each of these projects — you might be surprised to see just how significant the help of the public has been on some significant scientific discoveries!

Have some suggestions for great space citizen science projects like the ones above? Let me know in the comments!


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