Anybody can map the Moon!

Anybody can map the Moon!

It is possible for public to map the Moon with the same quality as a group of experienced professionals, scientists say.

A new study by scientists working with the CosmoQuest virtual research facility highlights the ability of citizen scientists to advance planetary research.

CosmoQuest's MoonMappers research portal invites the public to learn about the lunar surface and aid professional researchers in mapping craters and other features on the Moon.

With over 500 million craters on the Moon alone, and new data coming in from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter daily, there is quite a lot of science to be furthered.

"These volunteers can accomplish many of the same tasks as students and professionals, but exist in larger numbers," said Dr Pamela L Gay, who runs CosmoQuest site from the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE).

Today, as shrinking funding dollars reduce the number of professional positions, the need for this help is greater than ever before, researchers said.

"CosmoQuest allows passionate volunteers and professional scientists to effectively explore our solar system together and accomplish science that might otherwise never be done," said Gay.

In a statistical comparison between the results of eight professional crater counters, and MoonMapper's cadre of amateur counters from around the world, it was shown that the combined results are consistent across both groups, even across varied types of craters.

The study also showed that the variation in counts between different professionals could be as much as 35 per cent, while there was a one to one relationship between the combined professional counts and the citizen scientist counts.

"The results from the study were very reassuring to us," said Stuart Robbins from University of Colorado – Boulder, the study's lead author.

"Without this first step of verifying the accuracy of volunteer crater counters, there would be no point in continuing the project. Our study results mean we can now use the power of crowd-sourcing to gather more data than we ever thought possible before," said Robbins. The results appear in the journal Icarus.

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