NASA Help Wanted: Telescope Optional

If you’ve ever wanted to work for NASA, here’s your chance. Well, don’t expect a paycheck or any benefits, but the Agency is looking for volunteers to help process the huge amount of exoplanet data with their Exoplanet Watch program. If you have a telescope, you can even contribute data to the project. But if your telescope is in the back closet, you can process data they’ve collected over the years.

You might think the only way to contribute with a telescope is to have a mini-observatory in your backyard, but that’s not the case. According to NASA, even a six-inch telescope can detect hundreds of exoplanet transits using their software. You might not get paid, but the program’s policy requires that the first paper to use work done by program volunteers will receive co-author credit on the paper. Not too shabby!

The observations involve measuring dips in star brightness caused by the transit of a known exoplanet. This allows the planet’s orbit to be calculated more precisely, which helps other scientists who want to observe the planet later. This can save valuable time on large instruments by tasking the telescope for the exact time the exoplanet will transit.

We find it ironic that it wasn’t so long ago that science generally dismissed the possibility of detecting and observing extrasolar planets. Now there are more than 5,000 of them known to exist. That’s 1,000 a year for the Enterprise’s five-year mission.

We love citizen science, especially when it is space-based. There are several other projects on Zooniverse, if you want a choice between space and other kinds of science.

31 thoughts on “NASA Help Wanted: Telescope Optional

  1. Oh, so NASA pisses away Billions of our tax dollars on silly space ventures, and now they want free help!
    We have far more pressing matters here on planet earth to deal with, where that money would be far better spent. Piss off NASA!

      1. As I usually wear t-shirts for a pajama top, I feel I have enough to last me the rest of my life.
        OTOH, T-shirts with a pocket, can be daytime worn, because there is a place for my pocket protector B^)

    1. If everyone was as smart as the people at NASA, or worked as hard at the people at NASA, or had the desire to succeed as strongly as the people at NASA, or were as productive as the people at NASA … we wouldn’t need to spend that money on other things to make up the difference in value added to society. You clearly have no idea how many things that benefit society have come out of the work done at NASA.

      1. Send this to the rose-colored-glasses department. Thirty years working for them, seeing the pervasive politics, sweeping the failures of major contractors away, failure to foster small contractors has given me an entirely different viewpoint. Science definitely takes a back seat to making your senator happy.

          1. Not quite everywhere, but everywhere that’s connected with the government.
            Or is the complainer also wanting to get rid of the entire government, DoD included?

    2. Interesting, given what was so idiotically expressed was sent from a device derived from that wasteful agency’s technology, from a home filled with other NASA derived technology.

  2. Citizen science is nothing new but is a rad new use of connected telescope devices. The SETI at home thing from 20 years ago that essentially used screensaver time to process data was pretty cool. One of the new generation of smart telescopes, the Unistellar, is able to be used in such a fashion. You use it on your own or whatever, but can also elect to participate in group data collection that gets automatically uploaded to whoever is coordinating the event. There is a cool article floating around where Tim Russ, and actor from Star Trek, talks about it.

    1. They probably use Google and/or Amazon server farms for their data and processing needs. I would much rather this than buying quickly outdated hardware and more accidentally erased data that cost $billions to acquire.

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