The project’s aim is to create a highly accurate, easy-to-use real-time map of confirmed aurora sightings. The idea is that this will increase your chances of seeing the rare beautiful northern lights during the maximum of the solar cycle (2012-2014). It’s the first solar maximum with social media, and the chance to Tweet about aurora sightings is a powerful way to spread information. Backed by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the project aims to build a predictive capability for the lights' visibility based on citizen scientists’ positive and negative sightings and through social media.


When citizen scientists are able to see the auroras (northern or southern lights), LANL researchers would like to know the observers’ locations so the researchers can map visibility for others to see. The aim of aurorasaurus is to help as many people as possible know when the aurora is visible in their neighborhood, accurately and in real-time. No scientific knowledge or jargon is required, just the ability to navigate the map and enter simple observations. If you went looking for aurora and weren’t able to see it, that is also valuable information.


LANL is also using volunteered geographic information for space science and computer science related research.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Elizabeth MacDonald
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Simply visit Aurorasaurus and report on what you did or did not see. Check the main map for information about what others are seeing and read more about the project.

See more projects in FreeObservationAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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