CosmoQuest, a collective of amateur astronomers that identify and map craters on various space objects, including the moon, has gotten so adept in their studies that their data has been used in scientific research and at times published.
Stuart Robbins, a research scientist at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics who led a comparative study between amateur and professional astronomy research stated, "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. 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."
CosmoQuest's mission is to "create a community of people bent on together advancing our understanding of the universe; a community of people who are participating in doing science, who can explain why what they do matters, and what questions they are helping to answer. We want to create a community, and here is where we invite all of you to be a part of what we’re doing."
The collective also offers online classes via its CosmoAcademy portal, and has submitted various stargazing tutorials via social media:
Robbins and his team gauged the findings of thousands of CosmoQuest members against that of eight scientists, using pictures taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. While amateur volunteers and scientists saw vastly different numbers of craters in the study area, averages for the two groups were statistically aligned. Robbins' team called the results "reassuring" for CosmoQuest, which has crater-mapping projects for the moon, Mercury and the protoplanet Vesta.
Pamela Gay, who runs CosmoQuest out of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville said, "Put simply, the sky is large, and astronomers need all the help the public can offer."
The study was published on March 4th in the online science journal Icarus.
Image via Wikimedia Commons