You can help NASA on some projects: for instance, citizen scientists helped NASA identify an aurora-related celestial phenomenon, now called STEVE. Want to become a citizen scientist? You can find projects on the NASA website.

NASA identified an aurora-related celestial phenomenon STEVE with the help of citizen scientist program
STEVE (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement) and the Milky Way at Childs Lake, Manitoba, Canada. The picture is a composite of 11 images stitched together. STEVE is short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement. It is a rare type of aurora, a thin purple ribbon of light. Scientists have now learned, despite its ordinary name, that STEVE may be an extraordinary puzzle piece in painting a better picture of how Earth’s magnetic fields function and interact with charged particles in space.
People were out observing the aurora and they started noticing something that was overhead as well when they were seeing the aurora far to the northern regions. Liz MacDonald, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the leader of The Aurorasaurus team says: “It was unlike most aurora. (They) talked to scientists, but we didn’t know what it was. They said we’ll keep taking observations and we call it STEVE in the meantime”.
“STEVE is mostly a very narrow purple arc and sometimes it has these little green features that go along with it as well that are kind of like waving fingers or a picket fence. That means that there’s plasma physics happening up there to cause that light, and to make these little discreet features that we don’t understand yet.”
Image Courtesy: Krista Trinder. Image source: NASA Goddard Flight Center Photo Stream on Flickr

Citizen Scientist Available projects


  • Air Quality Citizen Science ( As a citizen scientist you can deploy and maintain low-cost air quality sensors that measure the air quality in your neighborhood; helping to validate NASA.
  • CosmoQuest ( Help NASA analyze more than 1.5 million images taken by astronauts on the International Space Station. This is a task only a human-like you can accomplish.
  • GLOBE Observer ( GLOBE Observer invites you to make environmental observations that complement NASA satellite observations to help scientists studying Earth and the global environment.
  • GLOBE Program ( Help NASA monitor Earth’s changing climate by becoming part of a worldwide data collection team.
  • Landslide Reporter (Landslides @NASA): Submit landslides that you find in-person or online to a global NASA database of landscape events; your contribution will influence decisions that could save lives.
  • S’Cool ( Collect data about clouds in your area and help us make our Earth-monitoring satellites more accurate and powerful. In this project, Citizen Scientists are called Rovers, they are roaming Cloud Observers. Rovers will collect data on cloud type, height, cover, and related conditions. Your observations help us to validate satellite data and give us a more complete picture of clouds in the atmosphere and their interactions with other parts of the integrated global Earth system. Observations are sent to NASA for comparison to similar information obtained from satellites. Reports from a wide range of locations are helpful to assess the satellite data under different conditions.


  • Aurorasaurus ( Did you see the aurora? Be part of a world-wide reporting system that will help NASA understand how activity on the Sun affects the Earth.
  • Sun Spotter ( Help NASA understand how solar activity affects the earth by classifying sunspots using images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (see notes 1).

Solar System

  • Backyard Worlds ( Undiscovered planets and other smaller celestial objects may lurk in the distant reaches of our solar system. Help NASA search for new objects beyond the planet.
  • Fireballs in the Sky ( The Fireballs in the Sky app allows you to get involved with the Desert Fireball Network research by reporting your own fireball sightings to NASA scientists.
  • Stardust ( In 2006, a capsule from the Stardust spacecraft (see notes 2) returned to earth with samples taken from a comet’s tail. Together, you and thousands of other Stardust@home participants will find the first pristine interstellar dust particles ever brought to Earth.
  • Target Asteroids ( Help NASA understand near-Earth asteroids as part of the preparation for a mission (OSIRIS-REx) to return a sample from the asteroid Bennu (see notes 3)


  • Disc Detective ( Help NASA find where new planets are forming around distant stars using heat images from the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (see notes 4).
  • Exoplanet Explorers ( Planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy are known as exoplanets and you can help NASA find them by looking at star data from Kepler’s space telescope.
  • Measure and Map Our Galaxy ( NASA needs your help looking through tens of thousands of images from the Spitzer Space Telescope. By telling them what you see in these infrared data, you will help scientists better understand how stars form and discover some of the most massive stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.
  • Panoptes ( Panoptes aims to build a worldwide network of low cost, robotic telescopes that are used to detect transiting exoplanets. Learners of all ages and backgrounds can. Join the group, and participate in any way you wish, according to your area of expertise and/or taste. You can build a robotic camera yourself (and improve our design), explore new hardware solutions, write/improve software, come up with a new idea to use the robotic cameras, get other citizen scientists to join, analyze existing images, etc.


  1. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a spacecraft built by a European industrial consortium led by Matra Marconi Space (now Astrium) that was launched on a Lockheed Martin Atlas II AS launch vehicle on December 2, 1995, to study the Sun, and has discovered over 3000 comets. It began normal operations in May 1996. It is a joint project of international cooperation between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. Originally planned as a two-year mission, SOHO continues to operate after over 20 years in space. In November 2016, a mission extension lasting until December 2018 was approved
  2. Stardust was a 390 kilogram (860 lbs) robotic space probe launched by NASA on 7 February 1999. Its primary mission was to collect dust samples from the coma of comet Wild 2, as well as samples of cosmic dust, and return these to Earth for analysis. It was the first sample return mission of its kind. En route to comet Wild 2, the craft also flew by and studied the asteroid 5535 Annefrank. The primary mission was successfully completed on 15 January 2006, when the sample return capsule returned to Earth. On 14 August 2014, scientists announced the identification of possible interstellar dust particles from the Stardust capsule returned to Earth in 2006.
  3. The purpose of OSIRIS-REx spacecraft (an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is to study, map and return samples for detailed analysis from asteroid 101955 Bennu, a carbon-rich hunk of rock that might contain organic materials or molecular precursors to life. It was launched on September 8, 2016, and the expected return date is September 24, 2023. If successful, OSIRIS-REx will be the first NASA spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid. 101955 Bennu was discovered on September 11, 1999, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project, a collaboration of the United States Air Force, NASA, and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory for the systematic detection and tracking of near-Earth objects. It is a potential Earth impactor. It has a 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth in the late 22nd century. With a mean diameter of approximately 492 meters (1,614 ft; 0.306 mi), it can wipe out our civilization if it impacts our planet.
  4. Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a NASA infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope launched in December 2009 and placed in hibernation in February 2011 when its transmitter turned off. It was re-activated in 2013. WISE discovered thousands of minor planets and numerous star clusters. It also helped the discovery of the farthest known supermassive black hole, 800 million times the mass of our Sun, which is astonishingly large for its young age.


M. Özgür Nevres

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