Archive | June 2011

One Year of the Moon in 2.5 minutes

A recent discussion started by our science lead, AstroStu, about photographing the Moon for an entire lunar month, lead me to wonder how this would look as an animation; showing the full cycle of lunar nutation and libration. Also, last month we celebrated our first year of Moon Zoo.

With these two things in mind I found something which I find topical in respect of both lunar cycles and 365 days of the Moon. The following link will take you an animation created by the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. It uses data from the LRO to show ‘One Year of the Moon in 2.5 Minutes’.
As you will read in the accompanying text, the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) has already taken more than 10 times as many elevation measurements as all previous missions combined, thus giving us the global elevation map and the dramatic shadows seen in this animation.

Here is the link to the official NASA page.

I recommend full screen and some moody music for this one.



Thomas J is a volunteer moderator for the Moon Zoo forum


Mapping the Moon – John Russell’s Selenographia

On a recent trip to London I just had time to visit the “Out of this World” Science Fiction Exhibition in the British Library and was surprised to see one of my favourite objects displayed there – the Selenographia by English artist John Russell. It’s a globe of the Moon (and Earth) he produced in 1797, the culmination of 30 years work mapping the lunar surface with a small but powerful refractor given to him as a gift by his grateful portrait sitters.

The Selenographia (excuse the poor quality photo – hand held with no flash on a mobile phone. I saw it and just had to have a photo!)

Here’s one of John Russell’s pastels of the full Moon:

Science Photo Library

More of his beautiful lunar drawings can be found here.

This is what the National Maritime Museum says about John Russell and his Selenographia.

“John Russell’s Selenographia consists of a large lunar sphere and a small terrestrial sphere. It is constructed to reproduce the librations, or motions, of the Moon with respect to the Earth. Only one side is illustrated, the other is blank, since only one side of the Moon is visible from Earth. Russell (1745-1806) spent 30 years perfecting his map of the Moon, producing detailed drawings and inventing the Selenographia. He probably did not make the globes himself and the Selenographia was offered for sale with various stands.

Both the lunar and terrestrial spheres are made of papier mache covered with plaster and twelve full gores that are engraved, hand-coloured and varnished. The lunar sphere is mounted on a heavy brass hemisphere with parts cut away so that the resulting structure consists of one great circle oriented vertically, a concave circular disc centred on the pole and four circular arcs. The terrestrial globe is inclined at 66.5 degrees to the ecliptic and supported by a quarter circle rising from beneath the lunar globe. A number of different mechanisms represent the various relative motions of the Moon and the Earth. The whole is supported by a single-stem pedestal brass stand.

On the lunar sphere, two great circles, the lunar equator, and the lunar prime meridian, are drawn, but these are not graduated. The craters, the seas and the mountains are delicately drawn but no nomenclature is provided. The main craters are marked by a cross. The terrestrial sphere bears a simple outline of the continents and labels five oceans Tasmania is still drawn as a peninsula.”

From the Selenographia to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Don’t you just love serendipity?

Jules is a volunteer moderator for the Moon Zoo forum

Crater Chain Boulevard

This is a very busy section for crater chains/secondary impacts near the Lunar North Pole at 72.51 N, 121.37 W

Act-React Quick Map

The impact formation at top right is especially interesting:

It is somewhat of a mystery to me on how it formed.  You can see what appears to be an ejecta blanket that perhaps moved in a W-E direction giving the surface a sculpted and scraped appearance.  That would be fine except for the line of craters that have made a chain of impacts on the left edge of this formation that would seem to have come in from a N-S or S-N direction.  Notice there is no surface ejecta sculpting to the left of this chain.

What are your thoughts?

Tom128 is a regular contributor to the Moon Zoo forum

A bit of Citizen Science Communication

If somebody asks you if you’d like to go down to London Town to tell people about how great Citizen Science is there really is only one answer. So I found myself booking yet another London-bound train this time to attend the British Science Association’s Science Communication Conference as a speaker(!) Thrilled didn’t cut it.

The Venue – King’s Place

As this was a science communicators conference there was a mix of educators, writers, media people, organisational representatives and students attending. I just hoped that what I had prepared would get the message across.

I was on a panel with Chris Davis, project scientist for the STEREO Heliospheric Imagers and Solar Stormwatch science team guru and Marek Kukula, the Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Karen Bultitude from the University of the West of England Science Communication department organised us wonderfully and chaired and introduced our session which was held in one of the concert halls with comfy sofas. Apparently the hall sits on rubber springs to ensure it is acoustically separate from the outside world. Didn’t notice the springs but it had the look of a breakfast TV set with an audience. Cosy.

Me, Karen, Marek and Chris on the sofa

Our session was: “Citizen Science: public participation in research.”  We had an hour and a half to talk about the role Citizen Science can play in science communication and data sifting. We were each given a slot to talk about different aspects of Citizen Science.

Very briefly our message was:

  • The digital age is producing data faster than researchers can keep up with it.
  • Design the right interface and the public will be happy to help out.
  • Given good instructions the public can classify things just as accurately as “professionals.”
  • It’s an inspiring concept and a great way to get people interested in science.

Marek was first up and spoke about the creation of the Zooniverse, from it’s early days after a conversation in a pub to the current 8 live projects and 400,000 registered users, fondly recalling the melting of the first Galaxy Zoo server along the way.

Chris was next on how Solar Stormwatch came to be part of the Zooniverse. He was discussing the huge amount of data that the STEREO mission was producing with Chris Lintott and wondering how it was all going to be analysed and before long another zooniverse project was born. As a result Chris said he was delighted to suddenly have 12,000 research assistants.


And then it was me on why I started taking part in Citizen Science and what I get out of it. There’s more about me here so I won’t repeat things (much) but my story is simple. I’m a latecomer to science after not studying it at school. The Apollo missions sparked a life-long interest in astronomy and astronomy was what I was hoping to get more involved in when, by chance, I found stardust@home and then Galaxy Zoo. I was in the right place at the right time. Science, it seemed, wanted volunteers to help out. Volunteers like me. Being involved in Citizen Science really has made a difference. It’s given me the confidence and motivation to start studying again and I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to several conferences like this one where I hope some of my enthusiasm rubs off. I really believe that if Citizen Science has been around when I was at school my story would have been very different. My closing comment was that I like to think that in a parallel universe I made it as a scientist but in this one I am happy to be a Citizen Scientist. The ripple of applause I got after that suggested it was a good idea to leave that bit in!

Then we highlighted 3 very different citizen science projects: Solar Stormwatch, Moon Zoo and the UK Ladybird Survey.

The UK Ladybird Survey

A question and answer session next with some good questions covering all aspects of Citizen Science. I can’t remember them all but we discussed things like:

  • Are volunteers classifications accurate (yes – for Galaxy Zoo we are at least on a par with experts)
  • What do you do about rogue classifiers (crowdsourcing has built in error correction)
  • How are papers based on Citizen Science treated (just as rigorously as any others)
  • How do we recruit volunteers (conventional and social media)
  • How many people taking part visit the forum (not enough!!)
  • And a couple of people asked how they could start their own Citizen Science project

All good questions and nothing too tricky. I know there’s some scepticism and concern out there about using the general public to crunch data and get involved in the science but no-one brought this subject up directly although someone did ask if volunteers should be involved in leading the research. My answer was that I’m quite happy being led – being one of Chris’ 12,000 research assistants – but liked the fact that the data was made available so that people had the opportunity to do their own research if they wanted to. And the only way to allay the fears of the sceptics is to keep producing quality data and show that it works.

After that we had a bit of live audience participation in Moon Zoo Boulder Wars and kept our fingers crossed that the internet played nice. It did. And so did the audience.

The hour and a half went very quickly and judging by some of the lovely comments we received afterwards we achieved what we set out to. The Twitter comments were really positive too. You’ll find a storyfy of Day 2 here or on Twitter under #SCC2011 (though you’ll have to search for the right bit (we started at 14.15) in both cases!)

The conference tweet tag cloud by @andrea_fallas  (great to see “citizen” in there!)

And the really good bit? We had lots of guests on both the Solar Stormwatch and Moon Zoo forums that night! I just hope some of them stay to see what all the fuss is about.

Jules is a volunteer moderator for the Solar Stormwatch and Moon Zoo forums