Development & Alumni Relations Office 



CITIZEN SCIENCE – PUBLIC TO HELP RESEARCHERS CAPTURE LARGEST EVER MOVIE OF CHANGING NIGHT SKY

06 February 2020

Researchers at Queen’s are looking for UK citizens to help contribute to world-leading research on capturing the largest ever movie of the changing night sky.

The Queen’s experts have received funding from the government via UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) for the project.

They will work with researchers from the Zooniverse team at the University of Oxford to explore how they can combine citizen science and automated machines to search for an astronomical needle in a haystack. This includes solar system bodies, supernovae and other astrophysical explosions – in preparation for the Rubin Observatory’s ‘Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST)’.

Starting in 2022, the Rubin Observatory will identify ten million sources in the sky that changed compared to the last time the telescope viewed them, identifying new supernovae explosions lighting up for the first time or a comet suddenly fading.

Using surveys which are now active, the researchers will explore how to pair machines and people power to efficiently sift through the data to identify interesting sources worthy of rapid follow-up with other ground-based and space-based telescopes.

Dr Meg Schwamb, who is leading the project at Queen’s, commented: “We are delighted to be developing new pathways for how citizen science can contribute to exploring the changing night sky.”

An American astronomer and planetary scientist, Dr Schwamb is a lecturer in the Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) and the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's. Her research focuses on how planets and their building blocks form and evolve. She also utilizes citizen science to mine large datasets for Solar System science.

Dr Schwamb added: “We’re examining how we can engage with the public so that they can go online and make assessments and complete tasks relating to the LSST data in real time.

“The exciting part is that this has the potential to engage with people who would not normally be involved with research and innovation, so they can shape research that is relevant to their lives and their local areas.

“We are also aiming to inspire a new generation of children and young people about the wonder and potential of this research.”

The project is one of 53 across the UK, which have been funded a total of £1.4m by UKRI.

UK Research and Innovation’s Head of Public Engagement, Tom Saunders, said: “As part of UKRI’s new vision for public engagement we launched two new funding calls last year, one aimed at encouraging researchers to explore citizen methods, and another aimed at supporting researchers and universities to engage with communities and places and communities who have fewer opportunities to participate in research and innovation.

“In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.”

The Rubin Observatory's Legacy Survey of Space and Time is a planned 10-year survey of the southern sky that will take place at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, currently under construction on the El Penon peak of Cerro Pachon in northern Chile.

Media enquiries to Emma Gallagher at Queen’s University Communications Office, telephone: +44 (0)28 9097 3087.

Headline photo credit: image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Back to Main News

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

           

Top of Page