Sunspotter Citizen Science Project Launched at Trinity

Published 6 March 2014

An image of a huge sunspot group many times the size of Earth. (Credit: Swedish Solar Telescope (SST) in the Canary Islands)Sunspots and solar storms are the feature of an ambitious project that has been launched by astrophysicists at Trinity College Dublin. Members of the public are being invited to contribute to the project, in which they will work as part of a large team to try to better understand sunspot and solar storm phenomena and their impacts on Earth.

The Sunspotter website was developed by a team of scientists from Trinity and Zooniverse, the organisation behind the largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects. Zooniverse hosts dozens of projects that allow members of the public – ‘citizen scientists’ – to participate in real research. As of February 2014, the Zooniverse community consisted of more than 1 million volunteers.

Anyone can join the research community contributing to this project by visiting the Sunspotter website. Volunteers will be asked to rank different images of sunspots in terms of their complexity, which is based on their size, shape, and combination of colour. This will help astrophysicists predict the ways in which Earth will be affected by future magnetic changes on the Sun.

Associate Professor of Astrophysics at Trinity, Peter Gallagher, said: “Even the most advanced computer software has not been able to accurately work out how explosive a particular sunspot is, which is why we need your help. But you’d be right to ask, why can’t scientists do the classifications themselves? The answer is that there is just far too much data!”

Research Fellow at Trinity, Dr Paul Higgins, who is the lead scientist behind the project, added: “The Sunspotter.org website gives members of the public the power to contribute to cutting-edge scientific research. This will help scientists better understand explosions on the Sun and how they affect us here on Earth.”

For more information, and to take part in the project, please visit the Sunspotter website.

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