This is where citizen science comes in. Astronomers already have access to large, high-resolution photos of almost the entire night sky, thanks to data collected from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. From 2009, the satellite swept the sky in different infrared frequencies, and a second phase, called NEOWISE, began in 2013.
The astronomers planned to follow up on anything interesting they spotted in the WISE images with others, more Powerful infrared telescopes like the Spitzer Space Telescope. But they quickly ran into a big problem: NASA was planning to stop Spitzer. To find anything, scientists would have to move fast.
“We are committed [citizen scientists] from the start to say “let’s try to find as many candidates as quickly as possible because we’re running out of time to do it with Spitzer.” It barely worked, ”says Kirkpatrick. “Without Citizen Scientists, we wouldn’t have had all of these applicants and enough time to follow up. So they were a godsend.
Volunteers use an online tool to quickly browse images of the night sky taken from a short distance. If they spot something moving, they can …
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