Ralph Carmichael  

How You Can Participate in Astronomy Research

Planet Hunters This site allows you to participate in the exploration of stars to determine if a particular star has a planet orbiting it. The technique of light intensity analysis (photometry) over time is used to find these planets. A full tutorial and video teach you how to search for exoplanets, and if you are the first one to discover one, you will be invited to co-author a research paper documenting the discovery of the planet. You will analyze data from the Kepler telescope. This is an exceptional site and you will learn quite a lot about exoplanets and how to detect them, and will be able to analyze data yourself to contribute to the planet hunting effort.
Galaxy Classification This site teaches you about the classification of galaxies and presents data and images from the Hubble Space telescope. You can participate in the research by learning how to classify galaxies and then applying your knowledge to real images from Hubble. Your classifications will help complete the research on the millions of galaxies imaged by Hubble. This site will help you learn about galaxies and their structures, and your contributions to the research will be valuable in the continuing study of galaxies at several major universities.
Moon Structure Classification This site teaches you about the structures of the Moon as well as crater classification, boulder classification, and geological structure classification and analysis. Through various tutorials and videos you will learn all about the moon and its various geological structures. You will then have the opportunity to examine images of the moon’s surface and classify the structures in the image based on your newly acquired knowledge. Your research will help with the classification of the Moon’s surface down to individual boulders and craters, as well as cracks, ridges, channels and other lunar features.
Solar Storm Watch This exciting site is the Royal Observatory of Greenwich’s solar storm science site, that allows you to learn about the science of solar storms and participate in the classification and research in the area of solar events. The site provides tutorials and an opportunity to use your knowledge to participate in storm observation and tracking. This is a great site to participate in solar research.
Stardust Analysis This site allows you to participate in the research of stardust. Your will learn, through tutorials (and a test at the end), to classify stardust from video and single images of the stardust collected by the Stardust spacecraft from Comet Wild in 2004. Your research will contribute to the body of knowledge on interstellar stardust found throughout the galaxy.
Global Telescope Network This site allows you to participate in research by analyzing the images from various telescopes across the globe. Through tutorials and software which you can download, you will be able to participate in complex scientific research and explore real life images to support various research programs such as those from NASA. This research is a little more demanding than most of the research on the other sites, but if you are into hard core scientific astronomical research, this site is for you.
SETI Quest This site allows users to participate in the analysis of data from the SETI telescopes. Through software downloads and tutorials, you will learn how to spot signals from the far reaches of the universe and perhaps you will be the one to discover the first signal from an intelligent civilization from the far reaches of the universe.

How Your Computer Can Participate in Astronomy Research

Research in astronomy can be a computationally expensive endeavor. In order to extract meaningful information from raw data, astronomers must crunch tremendous amounts of data, which requires an immense amount of computational power. Through several online distributed computing astronomy research project sites, you can learn how to become a part of the distributed research community and can take part in the research by allowing your computer to be used when you are not using it.

Milkyway@Home Milkyway@Home uses volunteered computing resources to create a highly accurate three dimensional model of the Milky Way galaxy using data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It is sponsored by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Milkyway@Home project is generating highly accurate three dimensional models of the Sagittarius stream, that provides knowledge about how the Milky Way galaxy was formed and how tidal tails are created when galaxies merge.
SETI@Home This is the time-honored SETI program that led the way for distributed computer research. The site contains the latest software and resources to get you started. A blast from the past!
Planet Quest This site, which uses the SETI model, allows users to participate in astronomical research through the donation of their computers’ free time. The site provides the required software as well as training, user groups, and forums to allow all involved in the project to participate in discussions about the current research.
As can be seen, the Internet has many valuable resources for amateur astronomers to participate in the latest research.
Ralph Carmichael