Citizen Science

The 2017 solar eclipse presents many opportunities for amateur astronomers and lifelong learners to get in on the fun of doing science.  This includes research projects about the sun, the moon, other sun-planet-moon systems, and even eclipses in other stellar systems. We also have opportunities for studying lunar features and solar activity, exploring the sun’s atmosphere, and investigating extrasolar planets. 

NASA has collected a number of these citizen science programs. There are programs at every level from the most basic observations to publishable research opportunities in partnership with NASA and university scientists. Each project will offer a certificate of completion signed by NASA. So, join us and experience the excitement of learning, and making real discoveries!

If you want to participate in Citizen Science discussions and receive a  newsletter devoted to CS activities across NASA, please join the listserve at

            Aurorasaurus (NSF/NASA) – This is a project that gathers real-time data about aurora sightings and sends out notifications to users when the Northern Lights are likely visible in their area. Aurorasaurus will significantly improve forecasting of the aurora using citizen science reports and crowd-sourced (Twitter) ground truth observations of aurora. Registered users get location-based notifications, a real-time monitor of space weather activity, the capability to help verify tweets and search for real sightings, answers to science and aurora questions, and more. Aurorasaurus was built by scientists for the public. This project was funded by an award from the National Science Foundation.

            SunSpotter (Zooniverse) – The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) needs your help to organize sunspot images in order of complexity to better understand and predict how the Sun's magnetic activity affects us on Earth. So far, 27,000 volunteers are participating. Sunspotter aims to construct a reliable measure of sunspot group complexity. This means they want to be able to take a picture of a sunspot group and say, from 1 to 10, how complex is this sunspot group? This will help with some of solar physics' unanswered questions including these two: are sunspots born complex or do they evolve to become complex? and do sunspot groups that are more complex produce more eruptions? Additionally, SunSpotter seeks to achieve a better physical understanding of how sunspot groups produce eruptions as well as to improve the accuracy of making predictions of solar eruptions. Like weather forecasting on Earth, we currently cannot predict eruptions with any accuracy. This will expand human knowledge about the Sun and allow us to more effectively protect humans in (and near) outer space. 

           HamSCI (Virginia Tech/New Jersey Institute of Technology) – This project will involve amateur radio operators in a program to study the ionosphere. The goals of this project are to advance scientific research and understanding through amateur radio activities, encourage the development of new technologies to support this research, and provide educational opportunities for the amateur community and the general public. HamSCI was started by ham-scientists who study upper atmospheric and space physics. These scientists recognized that projects such as the Reverse Beacon Network, WSPRNet, PSKReporter, DX Cluster, ClubLog, and more are generating big data sets that could provide useful observations of the Earth's ionosphere and related systems. Because of this, HamSCI's initial focus is on these fields of research. In the future, other researchers may join HamSCI and broaden its scope.

            Citizen CATE (National Solar Observatory) – The Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) Experiment will use more than 60 identical telescopes equipped with digital cameras positioned from Oregon to South Carolina to image the solar corona. The project will then splice these images together to show the corona during a 90-minute period, revealing for the first time the plasma dynamics of the inner solar corona.  

            Sungrazer Project (U.S. Navy & NASA) – This is a NASA-funded program than enables the discovery and reporting of previously unknown comets in the SOHO and STEREO satellite instrument fields of view. Anyone, anywhere in the world can become a "Comet Hunter", and immediately begin looking for new comets in the spacecraft data. The Sungrazer Project then collects these reports, performs necessary measurements and data reduction, and ultimately turns the comet reports into officially designated comets. 

            Solar Stormwatch II: Storm Front – Solar Stormwatch uses data from the NASA STEREO mission to track eruptions of material from the solar atmosphere as they expand through the inner solar system. Help solar researchers improve their tracking techniques by tracing the outline of the storm in each image.

            GLOBE at night (NOAO) – This is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure and submit their night sky brightness observations. In 2015, citizen scientists from around the world contributed 8,337 data points. Whether you use a smartphone, tablet or computer, you can submit your data in real time with the GLOBE at Night web app - now available in 28 languages! 

            Image Detective (NASA) – Visitors view photographs taken by ISS astronauts and work with a GIS system to identify what geographic spot is being photographed. Compete for the highest score and win a beautiful badge! 

            Moon Zoo  (NASA) – Visitors use Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images to annotate thousands of high res lunar images. MoonZoo needs Citizen Scientists around the world to help LRO scientists interpret these stunning new images of the lunar surface.  If you only spend five minutes on the site counting craters, you’ll be making a valuable contribution to science and, who knows, you might run across a Russian spacecraft.  

            Lunar Impact Monitoring (NASA) – Look for flashes on the dark portion of the Moon to help NASA count new impacts. Use Earth-based observations of the dark portion of the Moon to establish the rates and sizes of large meteoroids (greater than 10s of grams or a few ounces in mass) striking the lunar surface. Why it is important? The Meteoroid Environment Office is charged with developing an understanding of the meteoroid environment.  Lunar impact monitoring enables measurement of meteoroids in the 10s of grams to kilograms size range, which are difficult to measure with other techniques. 

            The QuantumWeather project – is participating in an NSF-EPSCOR sponsored project to measure surface and lower atmosphere changes during the eclipse. The 100 surface stations, 9 radiosondes and 3 UAS will be making measurements before, during and after the eclipse. This project is led by Dr. Robert Pasken at the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Saint Louis University.

            California Academy of Sciences – Life Responds citizen science program. Join the California Academy of Sciences in conducting research into behavioral changes in plants and animals during a total solar eclipse.