NASA needs our help. Unfortunately it doesn’t involve leaving the Earth’s atmosphere or otherwise experiencing space as astronauts do. It does however involve hundreds of thousands of photographs astronauts have taken while circumnavigating the Earth.
Through The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, NASA is making available images as far back as the 50’s. The goal of making these images public is to “help save energy, contribute to better human health and safety and improve our understanding of atmospheric chemistry. But scientists need your help to make that happen,” says NASA.
Containing over 1.8 million images, of which 1.3 million were captured from the International Space Station and approximately 30% were captured at night, NASA is trying to crowdsource their efforts to better help identify the location these photographs depict.
After the advent of a device meant to stabilize the camera and properly track the Earth’s rotation during the exposure, the images became much more clear, but even when clear, it wasn’t always known what was being photographed. NASA elaborates in their press release, stating, “now the pictures are clear, but their location may not be, which limits their usefulness. That’s where citizen science comes in.”
In collaboration with The Complutense University of Madrid, NASA is looking to catalog the photos with the help of crowdsourcing. To simplify the process, they’ve broken down their endeavor into three separate components, each consisting of a different level of participation: dark skies, night cities and lost at night, with each one getting consecutively more difficult.
There are hundreds of people who have already participated, classifying approximately 20,000 photos, but there are many more still to be done. Head on over to the collection, take a look, and be a part of history that helps document this Earth we live on.