Citizen Science projects for Planetary Science: Get Involved! Do Science!
I've been meaning to write up a blog entry on this topic for a while so was very happy to have someone do it for me -- Mike Malaska. By day, Mike is a Ph.D. organic chemist leading drug discovery projects for a pharmaceutical company. By night, he is a space enthusiast fascinated by the surface geology of Titan and other planetary bodies, and an eager citizen scientist. He prepared the following list to support the upcoming Citizen Science exhibit at the Astronomy Days event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on May 21-22 -- a free event, by the way, for those of you in the area of North Carolina! --ESL
Citizen Science projects let volunteers easily contribute to active science programs. They're useful when there is so much data it overwhelms computing algorithms (if they exist) or the scientific research team attempting to process it. In many cases it is easier to train volunteers to recognize patterns than it is to create a computer algorithm that attempts to do the same thing. (In some cases, the two approaches can be combined: Citizen Science data and results can be used as training sets to create advanced computer algorithms.)
There are many opportunities for citizen scientists to assist in the analysis of the huge amounts of data collected from spacecraft missions or other records that are then distributed out to volunteer researchers of various levels and interests. Many are 100% online so can be done from the relative safety (and warmth) of your home computer. Many allow you to jump in right away (a minimal tutorial is usually helpful at the beginning) for a quick try, while more in-depth exploration is possible through associated forums or blogs. Here is a quick list and links to some planetary science and astronomy Citizen Science projects (in rough order of increasing commitment):
The Planetary Society
The original or 'classic' screensaver for SETI@home