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See the Moon as Never Before

This post is part of Citizen Science September at the Zooniverse.

Not content with measuring craters and comparing boulders some Moon Zoo forum members go that extra step to produce something amazing. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Narrow Angle Camera repeatedly imaged some regions of the Moon under different sun angles or spacecraft angles.  By showing these images in sequence to produce animations the lunar landscape comes to life.

Apollo 11 Lunar Module, Eagle, using images taken at different spacecraft angles. Animation by forum member Jumpjack. The 3 bright features to the right of the Lunar Module are the Passive Seismic Experiment Package, the Laser Ranging Retro Reflector and its discarded cover.

The Apollo 17 flag shadow using images taken at different illumination angles. Animation by forum member JFincannon.

JFincannon also wrote a detailed entry for the Apollo Surface Journal. Using LRO  images and Apollo site maps to locate the flags he provided flag shadow animations for all 6 Apollo landing sites. These show clear evidence that the flags of Apollo 12, 16, and 17 are still “flying.” Apollo 11’s flag fell over during lift-off from the Moon and  JFincannon couldn’t find any evidence of the flag shadows at the Apollo 14 and 15 sites. Better resolution images might help determine whether these flags have fallen over or whether the tiny shadows are lost in the shadows cast by larger items.

Over the last 12 months the LRO took a small number of oblique images which involved the unusual move of rolling the spacecraft. Rather than pointing straight down at the lunar surface (0 degrees) the spacecraft and camera point at an angle, usually 50–70 degrees, and take an image looking across the lunar surface. The resulting raw images look strange and squashed but when stretched using image processing software they reveal some spectacular 3-D-like surface details. JFincannon posted a list of oblique images on the forum. Forum members then got to work producing some stunning moonscapes.

Near South Pole Aitken basin

 Northeast edge of Mare Vaporum near Manilus Crater.

Montes Caucasus region. Border of Mare Serenitatis and Mare Imbrium.

The dramatic lunar south pole

So come and see the Moon as never before. Help count and classify craters, contribute to building a hazard map of the Moon by comparing bouldery regions and search the high resolution images for yourselves. Then share your finds on the forum. We’re waiting!


New Look for Moon Zoo

Moon Zoo launched more than 18 months ago and we’ve been meaning to make some changes to the site. Later today our refreshed site will go live! You’ll notice that we’ve had the decorators in – the website looks a little different and a new tutorial (see below). On the back end, we’ve added new images and retired some old ones.


We have created a new interactive tutorial for Moon Zoo. This tutorial guides you through the basic interface of Moon Zoo and teaches you how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that we’ve seen since the project began. Even if you’ve classified on Moon Zoo before you might need to take the tutorial just once to get back on track – you should find it’s no problem. The tutorial has lists of known craters against which your markings are compared. If you’re too far off the mark with your crater drawing, we’ll ask you to try again. There’s nothing to worry about, just our way of ensuring maximum results from the site by bringing everybody up to speed.


We are retiring the Moon images we used at launch in 2010. But we have some great, new ones that allow us to study secondary craters and volcanic regions of the Moon. These will help us study interesting features and crater types, building on the work that has already been done by Moon Zoo volunteers.

So Moon Zoo: Phase 2 has begun – and will go live today – take a look!

The Moonometer (TM) Challenge!

Join in the Moonometer (TM) challenge! We need you to classify 25,000 images between now and Monday to celebrate International Observe the Moon Night. Just go to Moon Zoo and start clicking!

International Observe the Moon Night – 8 October 2011

This year’s IOTMN is just one day away. This is the one day of the year when all lunarphiles hope for clear skies and if we get them there will be a lovely waxing gibbous 11 day old Moon to observe.

11 day old Moon – J Wilkinson

This will be ideal for observing the spectacular Kepler and Copernicus craters and the dramatic Apennine Mountains and Mare Imbrium. Check the IOTMN website to see if there is an observing event near you. But the great thing about the Moon is that you don’t need a telescope or binoculars to observe it – just go out and look up. If it’s a clear night why not take a photo and post it on the Moon Zoo forum? We’d love to see it. However if it is cloudy don’t worry as there are still plenty of things you can do to celebrate IOTMN. Why not spend an hour or so measuring craters or matching boulders in Moon Zoo? If you use Facebook have you discovered the excellent Moon Zoo app? The more you classify on Moon Zoo the more features you can unlock on the app starting with the most common to the rarest features on the Moon. You can learn about the features as as you collect them and even share them with your friends. The app also tells you how many classifications you have done! Did you know there’s also a Facebook Moon Zoo page? Over 400 people like it already. Let’s see if we can add some more on Saturday! And if you use Twitter why not follow @moonzoo and keep up with the latest news?

So whether it’s cloudy or clear why not make IOTMN your night to get more involved with the Moon – and Moon Zoo?

Jules is a volunteer moderator for 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