Tired of playing Angry Birds while you wait for the bus? Why not explore the surface of the moon? Seriously. During the past two years, citizen scientists have helped locate more than 500 million lunar craters by using an app called MoonMappers. Even more impressive: the public’s picks matched those submitted by professional astronomers, findings that appear in the journal Icarus. [Stuart J. Robbins et al, The variability of crater identification among expert and community crater analysts]
Laypersons lend a hand in everything from cataloging bird migration to predicting how proteins fold. But does this amateur assistance actually help? To find out, researchers asked eight experts to identify craters in data collected by a NASA orbiter. And they compared the experts’ selections with those generated by folks using the MoonMappers app.
The results: ordinary people can spot craters like the pros. That’s good news for astronomers, who are counting on volunteers to help classify the condition of those craters, from “it’s perfect” for those pockmarks with pristine edges to “that’s a crater?” for the ones that look like rounded dents.
Examining these visual markers of past collisions will teach us more about the history of our solar system. And could help you kick that Candy Crush habit.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]