20 August 2009

Citizen Science In Meteorology and Astronomy

Posted by Dan Satterfield

My profession of Meteorology, and that of Astronomy, are the two sciences that have legions of citizen scientists who make lasting and significant contributions. The internet has increased this by an order of magnitude. It’s very gratifying to see, especially in a summer of silliness. The “war on Science” among some political groups goes on, but thousands of people around the world each day contribute to the sum of human knowledge, even if the job they make a living at has little or nothing to do with science.

Picture 5

COCORAHS needs you. Click to go the site


COCORAHS rain gauge.

Here are two examples. One from Meteorology, and the other from Astronomy. If you are interested in either, or both, I urge you to get involved!

First, is COCORAHS. The Community Collaborative Rain and Hail Study is growing fast. Thousands of people around the USA have bought a 29$ rain gauge, and once a day they get online and report their rainfall/snowfall. The gauges are VERY accurate, and the data is valuable not just to synoptic forecasters like me, who may show it on tv, but to climatologists and hydrologists as well.

This data will be used for many years to adjust rainfall models, help farmers and plan for urban storm runoff. It may even be instrumental in telling us how fast greenhouse gases are changing our planet. More importantly, it may become valuable in a way we cannot imagine yet.

You can find out more by going HERE.

Now, to the stars, or to be more precise, the galaxies.

Click the image to go to Galaxy Zoo and start classifying galaxies!

Click the image to go to Galaxy Zoo and start classifying galaxies!

GALAXYZOO.ORG is a web site where you can help Astronomers classify galaxies. This needs to be done. It’s real and it’s important and computers are LOUSY at it! The images of thousands of galaxies have been taken with professional telescopes. We need some good eyes to classify them. It’s not hard, and it’s a great introduction to the way real science works.

I just saw a paper in SCIENCE that had hundreds of authors listed. These authors for the most part were not professional astronomers, they were amateurs who were observing variable stars from all over the world and sending in their data to scientists investigating them. In Science, if you contribute, you are listed on the research paper. Thousands of amateur astronomers can proudly point to their name in the worlds most respected peer reviewed publications and know that they have added to our knowledge of the Universe.

So there you are. Two of many examples of citizen science. If you know a young person who loves the unknown, point them to this post. It could be a life changer for them. Anyone can contribute and it does make a difference!