This post is by Jennifer Grier, Ph.D., CosmoQuest Science Coordinator, Senior Scientist and Education Specialist, Planetary Science Institute.
At this year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in the Woodlands, Texas, Science Coordinator Dr. Jennifer Grier presented a poster showcasing many of CosmoQuest’s projects, science, goals, and plans for the future. Dr. Grier spoke with scientists, educators, and even an astronaut about what you, the citizen scientist, have been helping us to achieve.
Our research into counting craters on the Moon has been critical in validating the approach of including citizen scientists in the research science process. We have established that citizen scientists can robustly contribute to the investigations of professional researchers. That work showed that the average spread in the population of craters, as determined by experts, was greater than the difference between the spread between the average of the experts’ data and the volunteers’ consensus data. Because you have joined CosmoQuest as a citizen scientist, we can conduct authentic and valid investigations that would be prohibitively time consuming for a single expert researcher.
The science questions we are addressing with your help are always growing in number and breadth.
CosmoQuest investigations past and present have touched on important questions such as: What are the areas of rapid erosion on Mars that may be good for future rover investigation? How does incidence angle bias a scientist trying to count craters on the Moon? What is the timing of volcanic eruptions on Mars, and the implications for detecting life? How can we better understand the nature of secondary cratering on Mercury, and what does that mean for interpreting the age of important features and events on that world? Your input as citizen scientists makes this research possible!
Looking towards the future, one project presented at LPSC concerned our collaboration with the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft team. OREx is headed to the asteroid Bennu, where in 2019 it will retrieve a sample of the surface for return to Earth. The mission’s Image Processing Working Group will generate maps of possible hazards (which are objects like boulders greater than 21cm in size) on the surface to help identify possible landing sites. OREx is collaborating with CosmoQuest to generate boulder and crater counting datasets of Bennu. Once the development and testing is complete, OREx and CQ will launch a “Bennu Mappers” program to identify hazards and count boulders using real images of Bennu. The data gathered during this citizen science experiment will help inform the mission team as they make their final selection of a site from which to gather a sample for return to Earth. Continue to visit our site and be ready to help research scientists find a place to gather a piece of another (small) world!