Become A Comet Hunter

Tags: education comets

Beast

Have you ever wanted to discovery something in space that no one has ever seen before? Or help scientist make a breakthrough in how we understand our solar system? Now, no matter who you are or where you live, you can participate in a project that could help you live those dreams. The Comet Hunters Zoomiverse, a website for crowdsourcing research projects, has recently become host to a new space project, Comet Hunters, which is looking for astronomers of all ages to participate in a survey concerning comets in our solar system’s asteroid belt. The project revolves around the question on how to classify an asteroid, and how to classify a comet. The Problem Asteroids are classified as rocky or metallic floating objects in space, while comets are considered to be formed of ice, dust, and rock, and become active when they get too close to the sun as the ice starts to rapidly melt. Active comets emit a glowing tail forming off the back of them, giving scientist an easy way to identify comets from asteroids. However, recently, this time tested way of distinguishing comets from asteroids is up in the air. Since asteroids were discovered, scientist have assumed that asteroids do not become active, and comets do. This was common knowledge until images taken by Suburu Telescope, which is over 13,000 feet high on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, showed that there are active comet-like asteroids in the asteroid belt. This was startling because comets usually form outside of Neptune in the cold stretches of the Kuiper belt or the Oort cloud, which is the very last region of space that is influenced by the Sun’s gravitational pull, and not in the asteroid belt, where temperatures are higher. This has led scientist to believe that there must be asteroids that become active, but until the start of the Comet hunter project there had only been 10 objects discovered that fit this description. Subaru Telescope reuse How Can We Help? To learn more about active asteroids, scientist need to find more examples of them in the asteroid belt. This is where you come in. Comet hunters was started to speed up the photograph review process so the lead scientist can quickly scan through the images. Volunteers can log on to the website and start reviewing images of asteroids to decide if they are active or inactive. Most of the photos volunteers can review have never been reviewed before! This might sound like a task that would require some training or guidance, but creators of the project made it very easy to participate. The questions have volunteers look at a photo of an asteroid and answer questions like “is the asteroid center in the photo” or “does the asteroid have a tail?” The site even includes helpful guides for each question type, with example photos and explanations. A volunteer could review a hundred photos in under an hour if they wanted to. Benefits from This Project? So asteroids may become active, but why do we care as Earthlings? Well because they could help explain how life formed on Earth. Many scientist believe that Earth’s water came from an object from space, and until now, those scientist assumed that those objects had to be comets, since asteroids are not known to have as much water as comets. But if active asteroids exist, then maybe Earth’s water came from the asteroid belt, and not from the far reaches of the solar system. This could give scientists a better idea of the kinds of chemicals that might have influenced the creation of life, and how those chemicals arrived on our planet. Beyond Earth, icy asteroids in the asteroid belt might hold clues to how our Solar system was formed. So go become a comet hunter and help scientist discover the origins of life, our planet, and the solar system! Follow this link to participate: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mschwamb/comet-hunters

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