NASA Needs the Public to Go Take Pictures of Clouds
For the space agency, the change in seasons brings around a flurry of cloud activity, and NASA and the international GLOBE program are enlisting amateur photographers to take pictures of those clouds. There's some fancy science behind it all, but if you want to help out by taking pictures of clouds, all you need to do is take pictures of clouds (and you also have to this iPhone/Android app called GLOBE Observer).
But essentially, NASA is taking in a lot of data about clouds through a series of satellites called the "Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System" - shortened to CERES, like the dwarf planet. And while they can analyze and take measurements about the clouds in several different ways, they can't always tell different types of clouds apart.
As an example, CERES has trouble telling thin, wispy cirrus clouds apart from regular old snow since both are cold and bright. But with enough accumulated pictures from citizen scientists, NASA could check for a ground-level photo taken at that location and time, and then see whether it's a nice day full of cirrus clouds, or a freezing day full of snowfall.
It doesn't help that CERES is so new, having just launched last November, and it's still getting the hang of things. If the public submits tons of cloud photos by April 15, 2018, it would ideally make CERES smarter when it comes to clouds. Marilé Colón Robles, who's in charge of the GLOBE Clouds team at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia, said the following in an official press release:
@NASA and the @GLOBEProgram are asking for your help by taking part in a citizen science cloud observation challenge March 15 – April 15, to record 10 cloud observations per day using the GLOBE Observer app. Details here: https://t.co/8opyhI09YD pic.twitter.com/0GmAq97jlj— NASA_Langley (@NASA_Langley) March 13, 2018
As NASA seems to keep implying throughout their press release, this is far from the first time they (and other space agencies) have looked to citizen scientists for help. Just recently, the European Space Agency (ESA) was able to identify a new type of aurora only after hobbyist aurora-hunters took photos that matched up with their satellite data.
And citizen scientists have used raw data from NASA's Juno probe to make some incredible looking images of Jupiter. So taking pictures of clouds would be a much smaller commitment, as again, NASA keeps implying since they want the assistance.