Friday, April 27, 2012

Help wanted: Moon Mappers

Have you ever wanted to make a contribution to astronomy, but felt helpless because you did not have any good equipment for deep space observation? Not to fear! Moon Mappers needs your help.
An initiative by Cosmo Quest, the project is to attempt to map out at least 1,000,000 craters on the surface of the moon before May 5th.
Credit: Moon Mappers
Now, it may sound kind of silly to think of going about counting holes in the ground (even if it is on another world), but believe it or not, craters yield a lot of information when studied closely. More and more, scientists are discovering that craters are often sheltering harbors for ice and other frozen chemicals, which would otherwise melt and be evaporated if they were not hidden in shadow. Chemical samples from inside the craters also provide clues as to what sort of things have bombarded the moon in the past.
What’s more, Cosmo Quest has made it easy. They have managed to partner with NASA and obtain some high-resolution photos from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LROC), so all you have to do it properly mark out craters that appear to be about 1 meter in diameter on the photos. Sound simple? “There are literally millions of craters at that size,” says Dr. Pamela Gray, who is leading the Cosmo Quest project. This is so much more than a preschool counting exercise.
So, who’s up for adding some “lunar cartography” volunteer experience to their résumé?

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