Weekly Space Hangout -Oct 4, 2017: CosmoQuest’s Image Detective Citizen Science Project

Hosts:
Fraser Cain (universetoday.com / @fcain)
Dr. Paul M. Sutter (pmsutter.com / @PaulMattSutter)
Dr. Kimberly Cartier (KimberlyCartier.org / @AstroKimCartier )
Dr. Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg ChartYourWorld.org)

Special Guest:
Dr. Pamela Gay of CosmoQuest will be discussing and demonstrating the new citizen science project Image Detective, where people can help identify locations in space and on Earth in photos taken by astronauts on the ISS and spacecraft.

Announcements:

If you would like to join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew, visit their site here and sign up. They’re a great team who can help you join our online discussions!

We record the Weekly Space Hangout every Wednesday at 5:00 pm Pacific / 8:00 pm Eastern. You can watch us live on Universe Today, or the Weekly Space Hangout YouTube page – Please subscribe!

Hey Citizen Scientists! Help NASA Analyze Images Taken from the Space Station

Calling all citizen scientists, geography buffs, fans of the International Space Station and those who love that orbital perspective!

CosmoQuest has a brand new project in coordination with NASA and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) where you can help identify features in photographs taken by astronauts from the space station.

The project is called Image Detective. I’ve tried it out, and wow, THIS is a lot of fun!

Now, I absolutely love seeing the images taken of Earth from the ISS, and I routinely follow all the astronauts on board on social media so I can see their latest images. And I also love the concept of regular, everyday people doing science. Plus I’m a big fan of CosmoQuest and their ‘quest’ to bring science to the public.

But still, the setup CosmoQuest has is really great and the process is easy. Citizen scientists are asked to help identify geographic features (natural or human-made) and then determine the location on Earth where the photo is centered.

I found that last part to be the most difficult, but I’ve been known to have trouble reading a map … so I’m hoping that I can improve a bit with more practice.

“The astronauts’ photos of Earth are visually stunning, but more than that, they can be used to study our changing Earth,” said our good friend Dr. Pamela Gay, who is the Director of Technology and Citizen Science at ASP. “From erupting volcanoes, to seasonal flooding, these images document the gradual changes that happen to our landscape. The trick is, we need to make these images searchable, and that means taking the time to sort through, analyze, and label (add metadata) the unidentified images within the database of 1.5 million plus photos.”

You can try it out here: http://cosmoquest.org/ImageDetective.

The team says that Image Detective spreads the significant work necessary to label all of the images out to citizen scientists across the world.

“This is a unique, powerful, and beautiful image data set that has already yielded excellent research science. But the data set needs the many eyes and minds of citizen scientists to reach its full potential as a publicly available, searchable catalog,” said Dr. Jennifer Grier, a Senior Scientist and Senior Education and Communication Specialist at Planetary Science Institute (PSI) and CosmoQuest’s lead support scientist. “With the additions that citizen scientists as detectives can make, professional research scientists will be able to conduct more research into our changing world, and do so much more effectively.”

Weekly Space Hangout – October 14, 2016: Europe Crashes the Mars Party

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain)

Special Guest:

Guests:
Tyler Finlay of the Sally Ride EarthKAM project

Guests:
Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg)

Their stories this week:
Two trillion galaxies?

Obama reaffirms NASA’s Mars plan

ExoMars arrives in the coming week

CosmoQuest Survey for Citizen Scientists – how can we make citizen science more available?

CosmoQuest Survey for Parents who have kids doing Science Fair Projects – how can we help you?

CosmoQuest Survey for Teachers assigning Science Fair Projects – how can we help you?

We use a tool called Trello to submit and vote on stories we would like to see covered each week, and then Fraser will be selecting the stories from there. Here is the link to the Trello WSH page (http://bit.ly/WSHVote), which you can see without logging in. If you’d like to vote, just create a login and help us decide what to cover!

If you would like to join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew, visit their site here and sign up. They’re a great team who can help you join our online discussions!

If you would like to sign up for the AstronomyCast Solar Eclipse Escape, where you can meet Fraser and Pamela, plus WSH Crew and other fans, visit our site linked above and sign up!

We record the Weekly Space Hangout every Friday at 12:00 pm Pacific / 3:00 pm Eastern. You can watch us live on Universe Today, or the Universe Today YouTube page.

Celebrate International Observe the Moon Night on Saturday, Oct. 8 2016!

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This Saturday, October 8, 2016, is International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN), an annual worldwide public event that encourages observation, appreciation, and understanding of our Moon and its connection to NASA planetary science and exploration. InOMN is sponsored by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), and the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

LROC WAC image of the Moon. Credit: NASA/LRO
LROC WAC image of the Moon. Credit: NASA/LRO

Everyone on Earth is invited to join the celebration by hosting or attending an InOMN event — and uniting on one day each year to look at and learn about the Moon together. We encourage you to go to InOMN events near you, such as at your local planetariums or museums, or to go out and observe the moon yourself! You can find events near you at the InOMN site. You can also follow the InOMN Twitter feed to see what everyone is doing to celebrate!

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Our friends over at CosmoQuest are proud to be partners in this celebration of Earth’s natural satellite. There you can “Observe the Moon” all year long by taking part in lunar-themed activities, such as our Moon Mappers citizen science program, where you’ll get to look at some of the most detailed images taken by the LRO, and help our scientists study the moon and it’s surface. This excellent program is available free of charge, no matter the weather, time of day or your location – you get the best views of the Moon ever!

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Take some photos of your activities, whether outdoors observing or indoors mapping craters, and share them online at the CosmoQuest Twitter and Facebook feeds using the hashtag #observethemoon, and CosmoQuest will repost their favorites!

leif looking at the moon

Here are just a few of the media celebrations that have already been posted for InOMN!

One of CosmoQuest’s partners, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, has a great document here celebrating recent lunar discoveries.

The Moon and More” is a music video starring musicians Javier Colon (Season 1 winner of NBC’s “The Voice”), and Matt Cusson in collaboration with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.
Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/David Ladd, producer

Space-y Charity: Some Ideas To Respond To Astronaut Hadfield’s Challenge

While the world was enchanted with Chris Hadfield’s social media posts last year, a new video has the retired astronaut talking about loftier things. Say, for example, how humanity landed a camera on the Saturn moon Titan back in 2005. Or to be more practical, the fact that smallpox was eradicated in its naturally occurring form.

In his talks and books, Hadfield describes himself as one who never focuses on complaining. He was almost yanked from his command of the International Space Station due to a medical issue, but he pressed on and convinced the doctors to let him fly. And in this new video, he focuses on what humans do generally to make the world better — imperfect as it is.

“There are problems with everything, and nothing’s perfect, but that shouldn’t be cause to moan. That should be cause to achieve. Our world is a better place than we often claim it to be,” Hadfield said. “We live the way we do,” he added, “because people chose to tackle their problems, head on.”

The video appears to have a heavy emphasis on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a gigantic philanthropic network that works to improve lives in the developing world and also for the disadvantaged in the United States. But there are many ways to give back to your community, even through gestures as simple as volunteering.

Here are some examples in the space world (note that these aren’t necessarily endorsements for the organizations, but just ideas for making contributions in space and astronomy):

  • Cosmoquest, which runs online astronomy courses and also allows citizens to map extraterrestrial bodies right alongside astronomers.
  • Astronomers Without Borders brings astronomy education across the world, particularly to developing countries.
  • Uwingu says that half of its donations goes to grants to support learning in astronomy.

Other examples of space-y charity could include volunteering or donating to a local school or university, joining one of the numerous volunteer organizations in astronomy, or getting involved in a space advocacy group.

Here’s Your Chance To Fund A Universe Today Project On The Pluto Planethood Debate

New Horizons

This fall, Universe Today plans to get in-depth into the Pluto planethood debate. I (Elizabeth Howell) just launched a crowdfunding project on a new platform called Beacon that will allow me to fly down to Washington, D.C. for several days to interview Pluto scientists.

Should the project be funded, a few fun things are going to happen. Here, Universe Today readers will get a series of articles into the Pluto planethood debate. We’ll examine the controversial International Astronomical Union vote and why certain scientists still don’t believe Pluto is a dwarf planet today.

The question has special relevance today because NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on a journey to Pluto, and is less than a year from getting there. Examining Pluto will give scientists a window into how the solar system formed, which in turn gives us clues as to how the Earth came to be. We’ll have some stuff about the science as well; stay tuned for the details!

You’ll also get the chance to support astronomy education and outreach. I’m pleased to announce that CosmoQuest will be a partner on the project, receiving 15% of all proceeds for the project. If you contribute $250, $500 or $1,000, they will receive an additional 15% of your money. Contributors at this level will have their name mentioned in at least two of a series of six podcasts I will do for CosmoQuest’s 365 Days of Astronomy. There are other fun perks, too, so check out the Beacon page for more.

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As a freelance journalist, my challenge with doing travel stories is I have to pay my own way. Beacon solves that problem. It will allow me to spend a few days in person with scientists, gathering pictures and videos and podcasts, instead of relying on the phone interviews I usually conduct.

After paying contributions to CosmoQuest and to Beacon, every single cent remaining will be for travel expenses only. The money will give me a flight to Washington, D.C., a few nights in a reasonable hotel, and a car rental. I promise you that I’m extremely frugal — ask my mortgage broker — and I will spend every dollar of your contributions wisely. Additional money after $2,400 will allow me to draw a salary for the days I am there. If a substantial amount of extra money is raised, I’ll consider a second trip to D.C.

A NASA "poster" marking the one year to Pluto encounter by New Horizons. Credit: NASA
A NASA “poster” marking the one year to Pluto encounter by New Horizons. Credit: NASA

I’m not one to brag about my experience, but I will say that I’ve been proudly writing about space for a decade for many publications (including Universe Today). I’m one of the few journalists in Canada to focus on space virtually full-time. And I have covered some fun stories, such as three shuttle launches (2009-10), Chris Hadfield’s last mission (2012-13) and participating in a simulated Mars mission in Utah (early 2014). I see space as a field where I can always learn more, and this will be a great chance to share what I learn about Pluto with you.

Any questions? Feel free to get in touch with me at contact AT elizabethhowell DOT ca or to leave comments below. I likely won’t be able to respond until tomorrow as this launch coincidentally falls on a planned vacation day for me, but I promise that for the rest of the campaign I’ll answer your queries as fast as I can.

Annual Atlanta Star Party Coming Soon!

If you happen to be attending DragonCon or just live near Atlanta, come and listen to some fantastic speakers and help do astronomy research and education at the Annual Atlanta Star Party!

What: Since 2009, this annual charity event celebrates science and space, and brings people together for a great cause.

When: August 28, 2014, 7:00 p.m.

Pamela Gay and the crew at the 2013 Atlanta Star Party. Credit: Bruce Press
Pamela Gay and the crew at the 2013 Atlanta Star Party. Credit: Bruce Press

Who: Astronomers Pamela Gay, Nicole Gugliucci and Derek Demeter will be speaking at the event.

Where: The Emory University Math and Physics Department hosts the celebration at The Emory Math & Science Center, 400 Dowman Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322.

Why: Proceeds from the Star Party go to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and CosmoQuest. And, as always, we throw this party in memory of Jeff Medkeff, the “Blue-Collar Scientist.”

Family fun at the 2012 Atlanta Star Party. Credit: Bruce Press.
Family fun at the 2013 Atlanta Star Party. Credit: Bruce Press.

Tickets can be bought at http://atlantastarparty.com/tickets/ and you can share the promo code STARRY2014 for $5 off.

There is also a silent auction already started at: http://atlantastarparty.com/silent-auction/

Check Out These Online Astronomy Classes and Contests

Here are a few upcoming and ongoing astronomy classes and photography contests that our readers may be interested in.

One minute
Once a year, the One-Minute Astronomer — aka Brian Ventrudo — offers a detailed course called “The Art of Stargazing,” and you need to act fast on this one, as the final signup date is March 24, 2014. This 12-month course breaks down everything you need to know about stargazing into bite-sized pieces… detailed sky tours, choosing and using the best binoculars and telescope for you, and a smattering of science to help you understand a little about your place in the universe. It also shows you how to find and enjoy hundreds of achingly beautiful sights you will remember for the rest of your life.”

You have until noon (GMT) this Monday, March 24 to begin your personal odyssey through the heavens. As the Brian says, “You’ll come away from The Art of Stargazing with everything you need to become a skilled backyard stargazer.”

The cost is $197 USD, and there are payment plans, as well as a lifetime of followup information and email advisories. Get all the details here.

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As always, you can find other ongoing classes at the CosmoQuest Academy. They regularly have new classes as well as opportunities for citizen science with their Moon Mappers, Asteroid Mappers and Planet Mappers programs.

There are also two astrophotography contests going on right now:
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Ciel et Espace Photos in France is having their Photo Nightscape Awards, and are looking for submissions of Earth and night sky photos. Photos must be taken between January 1, 2014 and August 31, 2014. One photo submission per photographer, and all formats are accepted: panoramic, square, mosaics.

Prizes will be awarded Sunday, November 9, 2014 at the Rencontres Sky and Space (NCE) which will take place from 8 to 11 November 2014 at the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie.

They have two categories: pro and amateur. Prizes include a trip to the Very Large Telescope from ESO, a trip to the Alqueva Dark Sky Resever in Portugal for first prizes, and second prizes are a pair of Binocular from Nikon.

The judge for the contest is Miguel Claro, whose astrophotography we feature often here on Universe Today.

Get more information and find all the rules here.

contest 2

A second photo contest comes from our friends at TWAN—The World At Night with their 5th annual International Earth and Sky Photo Contest, which is part of Global Astronomy Month in April 2014. The TWAN the contest is open to anyone of any age, anywhere around the world.

This year’s contest theme, “Dark Skies Importance,” has two categories: “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.” Photos submitted to the contest should address either category: either to impress people on how important and amazing the starry sky is or to impress people on how bad the problem of light pollution has become. Both categories illustrate how light pollution affects our lives. Photographers can submit images to one or both categories.

Submitted photographs must be created in the “TWAN style” — showing both the Earth and the sky — by combining elements of the night sky (e.g., stars, planets, the Moon or celestial events) in the backdrop of a beautiful, historic, or notable location or landmark. This style of photography is called “landscape astrophotography”. This is similar to general “Nightscape Photography” but with more attention to the sky, astronomical perspectives, and celestial phenomena.

Find out more here.

New Online Classes to Help You Learn More about the Universe

Roughly eighty percent of all the mass in the Universe is made of dark matter – a mysterious invisible substance responsible for the structure of galaxies and the patterns of the cosmos on the very largest scales. But how do we know that?

Astronomical images are beautiful, but that’s not their primary purpose from a scientist’s point of view. How can we take those images and infer things about what they are?

We only know of one planet harboring life: Earth. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about the possibility of life elsewhere in the cosmos. How can we infer things about possible alien organisms when we can’t see them (yet)?

If you’re curious about those and other classes, CosmoAcademy — a project from the CosmoQuest educational and citizen-science group — could be for you. We’re offering three new online classes: Introduction to Dark Matter, Introduction to Astronomy via Color Imaging, and Life Beyond Earth: Introduction to Astrobiology.

These classes are short, four-hour courses designed for curious but busy people. All CosmoAcademy classes are offered online through Google+ Hangouts, a type of video chat. Part of the reason we do that is to limit the size of courses to eight students. That allows us to provide individual instruction in a way no other kind of online class is able to do – you aren’t a faceless student, but part of every discussion. In fact, if there’s a topic you want to discuss, there’s a good chance your instructor will take the time to talk about it.

Interested? See our course listings, and please let me know if you have any questions. Here are a few more details:

CQX015: Introduction to Dark Matter

Roughly eighty percent of all the mass in the Universe is made of dark matter – a mysterious invisible substance responsible for the structure of galaxies. But how do we know that? In this course, we’ll examine the evidence in favor of dark matter’s existence, from the rotation of galaxies to the radiation left over from the infancy of the cosmos. After that, we’ll examine what we can infer about the identity of dark matter and sketch out some of the experiments designed to detect it. This class assumes no background except a strong interest in astronomy and cosmology.

Instructor: Matthew Francis
Course structure: Two weeks, four 60-minute meetings
Meeting times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9–10 PM US Eastern time (6-7 PM US Pacific time)
Course dates: January 28—February 6, 2014

Enroll today!

CQX021: Introduction to Astronomy Via Color Imaging

When astronomers look at a star, nebula or galaxy for the first time, they see some unreachably distant object acting in some unknown way. What does it have to be made of and how does it have to be acting to look like that? In this class we will be looking at how we use the visual appearance of astronomical objects to figure out what they are. We will examine this problem by making our own color images from the sources provided by observatories from real research projects. From the subtle hues of stars in a distant galaxy to the eerie neon colors of nebulae to the chaotic Sun, by looking at objects in the right light, we can find out what makes them tick.

Instructor: Peter Dove
Course structure: Two weeks, four 60-minute meetings
Meeting times: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8–9 PM US Eastern time (5-6 PM US Pacific time)
Course dates: Tuesday, February 25—Thursday, March 6

Enroll today!

CQX013 – Astrobiology: Life in the Universe

What will it take to find extraterrestrial life? Frank Drake penned his famous “equation” to determine the instances of life in the Galaxy over 50 years ago. Meant more as a discussion guideline than a rigorous mathematical formula, it will guide our discussion on the science of astronomy, biology, and astrobiology as we consider the possibility of life in the Universe.

Instructor: Nicole Gugliucci
Course structure: Two weeks, four 60-minute meetings
Meeting times: Mondays and Thursdays, 9–10 PM US Eastern time (6-7 PM US Pacific time)
Course dates: Monday, March 17 — Thursday, March 27

Enroll today!

Join the 32-Hour Hangout-A-Thon for Space Education and Outreach

In the latest budget proposal for NASA, it appears as though one of NASA’s jewels — education and pubic outreach – is going to take a huge hit. The proposal seeks to slash NASA’s education budget by about a third, going from $137 million to $94 million. Also proposed is an initiative to combine (and in effect, water down) what NASA does by consolidating different educational efforts across the nation.

The American Astronomical Society issued a statement saying that the proposed cuts “would dismantle some of the nation’s most inspiring and successful STEM education assets.”

Dr. Pamela Gay, who heads up a big educational and citizen science effort with Cosmoquest, has written passionately about how these proposed cuts as well as the current sequestration of US governmental agencies will affect not only her work with education and citizen science, but educational programs for schools and universities across the US. Additionally, people who work in these areas face job losses.

So faced with funding cuts, the Cosmoquest team has decided to try an old-fashioned tele-thon (remember Jerry Lewis and his MDA telethons every year?) using new technology.

On June 15-16, Pamela Gay and Nicole Gugliucci are hosting a 32-hour Google Hangout on Air – a Hangout-a-thon – to raise money to support public engagement in science.

It starts at Noon EDT, 16:00 UTC on June 15, 2013 and will feature guests like Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer), NASA scientists and educators, the cast of Beyond the Wall, Mat Kaplan from Planetary Radio, and our very own Fraser Cain. Yours truly might make an appearance as well, beaming in from the middle of nowhere in Minnesota.

A complete schedule of guests and events can be found here.
Facebook Event Page

If you aren’t able to donate money, Pamela has written a great post about all the different things you can do to help.

As the CosmoQuest team said, they want to make sure astronomy education survives and remains strong. “While one team, and one telethon can’t fix everything, they hope this event can raise awareness, while protected one small corner of astronomy research and education.”

Education and technology are so important for our world’s future; if you can support this effort in any way, it would be greatly appreciated.

You can make a donation (tax deductible in the US where laws allow) through PayPal here.

The main G+ page for the Hangout-A-Thon