You don't have to be on a university research team to do useful Science in Astronomy. Researchers have developed many crowd-sourced projects which any internet-user can participate in. Alternatively, raw data from currently active missions like the Curiosity rover on Mars, and the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn, is freely available online for download and interpretation.
Roughly one hundred billion galaxies are scattered throughout our observable Universe, each a glorious system that might contain billions of stars. The aim of Galaxy Zoo is to study them, assisting astronomers in attempting to understand how the galaxies we see around us formed, and what their stories can tell us about the past, present and future of our Universe as a whole.
As a participant, you will be helping to classify galaxies, and if you're quick, you may even be the first person to see the galaxies you're asked to classify!
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is now only a click away! You will be helping SETI researchers analyze radio frequency signals from the Allen Telescope Array when it is pointed at stars which, based on Kepler exoplanet discoveries, have the best chances of being home to an alien civilization. Participants are also put "in the loop" where if enough people see a potential extraterrestrial (ET) signal in the same data, then within minutes, the ATA will be interrupted and sent back to take a second look.
Zooniverse had in fact grown out of the Galaxy Zoo project and expanded to include all manner of crowd-sourced data analysis problems. Among those about Space are the Milky Way Project (star formation), Planet Four (Martian weather), Solar Stormwatch, Planet Hunters and Moon Zoo (crater and geologic feature survey).
Zooniverse also hosts crowd-sourced projects in all subject areas, so there's something here for everyone.
|Planetary Data System
The PDS archives and distributes scientific data from NASA planetary missions, astronomical observations, and laboratory measurements. The PDS is sponsored by NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Its purpose is to ensure the long-term usability of NASA data and to stimulate advanced research.
A vast amount of raw and processed data from NASA missions are available free for download on PDS. If you enjoy discovering things on your own, or want to do a small science fair project, keep this resource in mind.