DIY Space: Help NASA with Zooniverse

The LRO above the moon. Image from NASA and hosted on Wikipedia.

NASA is experiencing too much of a good thing with its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) satellite.  The team is apparently overwhelmed with the number of images one of the satellite’s payloads is producing (why this problem wasn’t anticipated, I don’t know).  But you can help with this problem.  First, a little about the LRO.

The satellite orbits the moon in a polar orbit, but only 50 kilometers (31 miles) above the moon’s surface.  It hosts seven payloads designed to help scientists and other interested parties learn more about the moon:  Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER), Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment (DLRE), Lyman Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND), Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA), Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), and the Miniature Radio Frequency radar payload (Mini-RF).

You can go to the wiki to read more about the payloads, or to NASA’s website for more in-depth information of what those payloads do.  The payload this post is concentrating on is the LROC and the images it’s producing.  It’s also where the DIY part comes into play for you, if you’re interested.

A project, Zooniverse (created by Moon Zoo), is requesting interested internet denizens to help identify interesting features on the Moon’s surface.  Do you want to help highlight hazards for potential future lunar landings?  Then Zooniverse is the place to go.  The site uses a particularly human approach to identifying objects in pictures:  pattern recognition.  If you have this ability, and as a human you surely do, you can look at some of the Moon’s images and tag them with the appropriate descriptor, such as “Crater in image center,” or “Huge boulder in lower right.”  And NASA says to not worry if you’re wrong.  Chances are you probably aren’t.

If you have your “specialty” with these images, such as being particularly good at finding boulders, you can create collections of your tagged images for people to easily browse.  It doesn’t cost anything but your time, and all you have to do is register.  Then go to town, tagging the images to your heart’s content.

One more thing–NASA is also asking for people to vote on the best “artsy” picture of the moon, here.  The images were created using LRO data.  You can vote right up until June 6 of this year.

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