Above our heads, the atmosphere is a complex and unpredictable soup of gasses and charged particles subject to the influence of whatever the Sun throws at it. Attempting to understand it is not for the faint-hearted, so it has for centuries been the object of considerable research. A new project from the European Space Agency and ETH Zurich gives the general public the chance to participate in that research in a small way, by crowdsourcing atmospheric data gathering to a mobile phone app. How might a mobile phone observe the atmosphere? The answer lies in their global positioning receivers, which can track minute differences in the received signals caused by atmospheric conditions. By gathering as much of this data as possible, the ESA scientists will gain valuable insights into atmospheric conditions as they change across the globe.
The app requires an Android phone equipped with a dual frequency satnav receiver, and having been duly installed on the trusty Hackaday Motorola it in turn started picking up all the different constellations of satellites. The instructions are to leave it somewhere such as a windowsill with an unobstructed view of the sky and move it as little as possible, to which we’d add clicking the “Log in background” button and connectign a charger. There’s a promise that uploaders can win prizes, so aside from contributing to scientific discovery there might be an unexpected benefit. More details on the app can be found here, meanwhile many readers will know that this isn’t the only crowdsourced atmospheric data gathering effort.