If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a bit of a discoverer, there’s never been a better opportunity to be involved in astronomical discoveries than now. Just a few weeks ago, United States President Obama announced a “Grand Challenge” for NASA to work with amateur astronomers around the world in a joint effort to find and catalogue more asteroids with orbits close to the Earth.
And then once discovered there’s the question of what NASA and other space agencies around the world might do to ‘deflect’ any potentially dangerous rocks away from the Earth’s path. The budget isn’t endless, but good ideas can be submitted to NASA before 18 July.
Another science project for citizens is ‘Target Asteroids!’, designed for telescope owners around the globe to collect information about eight near-Earth asteroids ahead of the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft launch in 2016.
Don’t have a telescope? There is always the Galaxy Zoo project, where in a simple tutorial users are shown images of a galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and then asked a series of questions to classify its form and structure.
If those projects sound a little out of your capabilities, there are programmes you can be a part of without even knowing which end of the telescope to look through – SETI@Home and Einstein@Home use the computer processing power of your home computer when you’re not using it to analyse data about the search for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI) and search for radio pulsars (Einstein).
So there’s no excuse – there’s a citizen science project to suit everyone, so get in and help further astronomical knowledge!