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 Theory of the strong interaction verified
27.03.2015 | Forschungszentrum Juelich

nachricht Dark matter even darker than once thought
27.03.2015 | ESA/Hubble Information Centre

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: Experiment Provides the Best Look Yet at 'Warm Dense Matter' at Cores of Giant Planets

In an experiment at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as...

Im Focus: Energy-autonomous and wireless monitoring protects marine gearboxes

The IPH presents a solution at HANNOVER MESSE 2015 to make ship traffic more reliable while decreasing the maintenance costs at the same time. In cooperation with project partners, the research institute from Hannover, Germany, has developed a sensor system which continuously monitors the condition of the marine gearbox, thus preventing breakdowns. Special feature: the monitoring system works wirelessly and energy-autonomously. The required electrical power is generated where it is needed – directly at the sensor.

As well as cars need to be certified regularly (in Germany by the TÜV – Technical Inspection Association), ships need to be inspected – if the powertrain stops...

Im Focus: 3-D satellite, GPS earthquake maps isolate impacts in real time

Method produced by UI researcher could improve reaction time to deadly, expensive quakes

When an earthquake hits, the faster first responders can get to an impacted area, the more likely infrastructure--and lives--can be saved.

Im Focus: Atlantic Ocean overturning found to slow down already today

The Atlantic overturning is one of Earth’s most important heat transport systems, pumping warm water northwards and cold water southwards. Also known as the Gulf Stream system, it is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. 

Scientists now found evidence for a slowdown of the overturning – multiple lines of observation suggest that in recent decades, the current system has been...

Im Focus: Robot inspects concrete garage floors and bridge roadways for damage

Because they are regularly subjected to heavy vehicle traffic, emissions, moisture and salt, above- and underground parking garages, as well as bridges, frequently experience large areas of corrosion. Most inspection systems to date have only been capable of inspecting smaller surface areas.

From April 13 to April 17 at the Hannover Messe (hall 2, exhibit booth C16), engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP will be...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Conference On Regenerative Medicine 2015: Registration And Abstract Submission Now Open

25.03.2015 | Event News

University presidents from all over the world meet in Hamburg

19.03.2015 | Event News

10. CeBiTec Symposium zum Big Data-Problem

17.03.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Two Most Destructive Termite Species Forming Superswarms in South Florida

27.03.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

ORNL-Led Team Demonstrates Desalination with Nanoporous Graphene Membrane

27.03.2015 | Materials Sciences

Coorong Fish Hedge Their Bets for Survival

27.03.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>