Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

CU-Boulder-led study on lunar crater counting shows crowdsourcing is accurate tool

14.03.2014

If Galileo was still alive and kicking, he might want to take a selfie with some of the thousands of citizen scientists all around the world for their surprisingly accurate work of counting craters on the pock-marked moon.

A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder showed that as a group, volunteer counters who examined a particular patch of lunar real estate using NASA images did just as well in identifying individual craters as professional crater counters with five to 50 years of experience. And Galileo, who was observing the craters some 400 years ago with a rudimentary telescope, likely would be in awe.

“The new research points out that crowdsourcing is a viable way to do planetary science,” said Research Scientist Stuart Robbins of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, who led the study. The study compared the results of eight professional planetary crater counters with several thousand amateur crater counters from every corner of the globe.

“What we can say is that a very large group of volunteers was able to chart these features on the moon just as well as professional researchers,” Robbins said. “More importantly, we now have evidence that we can use the power of crowdsourcing to gather more reliable data from the moon than we ever thought was possible before.”

... more about:
»CU-Boulder »Earth »Space »SwRI »individual »lunar »processes

A paper on the subject was published online March 4 in the journal Icarus.

The crater-counting effort was initiated by CosmoQuest, a citizen science Web project that contributes real science to NASA space missions through the use of volunteers. In addition to analyzing high-resolution photos of the moon, the volunteers are helping planetary scientists tally craters on Mercury and the asteroid Vesta.

Developed by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Assistant Professor Pamela Gay, also a study co-author, CosmoQuest includes educational features, forums, blogs, online hangouts and galleries. It even has a human versus machine contest pitting individual citizen scientists against computerized crater mapping programs.

“Craters on the moon are important to scientists because they are a record of the cosmic mayhem that went on during the early formation of our solar system,” said Robbins. Most scientists believe that period was like a giant, madhouse billiard game, with comets, asteroids, moons and planets randomly slamming into each other for hundreds of millions of years.

“The early solar system bombardment recorded on the lunar surface allows scientists to look backward in time to see the conditions early Earth likely endured,” said Robbins.  “As scientists, we not only want to know what events happened, but when.”

The images under study by both the volunteer crater counters and the experts were taken by a camera onboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2009.  “Our citizen scientists are helping professional scientists explore the lunar surface, including spotting hazards and safe havens for future moon missions,” he said.

In a very rough estimate, Robbins calculated through the extrapolation process that there are some 500 million craters on the moon larger than about 35 feet across created by impacting objects. Unlike Earth, the moon never had tectonic plate movements, erosion and has not experienced widespread volcanism for billions of years – processes that tend to “erase” geological features like impacts on Earth.

A lack of these processes leaves the moon harboring dozens of craters that are roughly one-third the length of the United States or larger, he said. By comparison, the largest known crater impact on Earth – and there are less than 200 known, all told – is the Vredefort crater in South Africa, which is only 190 miles, or 300 kilometers, across.

For the lunar crater-counting project, several images of small portions of the moon were put online and the planetary science professionals and the citizen scientists were asked to identify craters in the images that were at least 18 or more pixels, said Robbins. The area of the high-resolution images under study by the crater counters for the project was about 1.4 square miles, or roughly the area of 1,000 football fields.

Eighteen pixels in the images are equal to a crater about 35 feet, or 11 meters, in diameter, he said. The variation between individuals counting craters can be substantial for both experts and volunteers. Even the total craters counted by experts in a single image varied by as much as 100 percent, or a factor of two. But when averaged by group, the population of craters found by the experts and citizen scientists were statistically similar, said Robbins.

“The results from the study were very reassuring to us,” said Robbins, who also is affiliated with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder (SwRI). “Without this first step of verifying the accuracy of volunteer crater counters, there would be no point in continuing the project. Our study results mean we can now use the power of crowdsourcing to gather more data than we ever thought possible before.”

He likened the new crater study of the moon as stepping onto “the first rung of a ladder” in the solar system, with further rungs being rocky bodies like Mars, Mercury and asteroids. “Our view now is to let the scientists focus on the science, and willing volunteers can do crowdsourcing work by marking craters -- even if they do it at night while watching television,” he said.

“We’ve only just begun to tap the usefulness of crowdsourcing through CosmoQuest’s Moon Mappers, Asteroid Mappers and Mercury Mappers portals,” Robbins said.

CosmoQuest has also provided workshops through SIUE for educators working as part of national STEM efforts, which are designed to transform undergraduate education and boost the numbers of college graduates pursuing teaching careers.

In addition to CU-Boulder, SIUE and SwRI, study co-authors are from Western Ontario University, Mount Holyoke College, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Washington University in St. Louis. The study was funded primarily by NASA’s Lunar Science Institute and the Maryland Space Grant Consortium.

Contact:
Stuart Robbins, CU-Boulder, 303-918-5589
stuart.robbins@colorado.edu
Pamela Gay, SIUE, 618-307-6546
starstryder@gmail.com
Jim Scott CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3114
jim.scott@colorado.edu

Stuart Robbins | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.colorado.edu
http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2014/03/13/cu-boulder-led-study-lunar-crater-counting-shows-crowdsourcing-effective

Further reports about: CU-Boulder Earth Space SwRI individual lunar processes

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration
18.10.2017 | NASA/Johnson Space Center

nachricht Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars
18.10.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Osaka university researchers make the slipperiest surfaces adhesive

18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>