How to Help NASA Using Your Smartphone by Pecier Decierdo



What is that guy in the picture doing? He's actually doing science by helping scientists at NASA with one of their big projects. Do you want to be a citizen scientist like him and use your smartphone for science? There's an app for that. No, really.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), together with the world's science museums, are calling on you to be one of the many citizen scientists around the planet to help in the Global Experiment, a science project that can provide clues about the future course of the Earth's climate.

If you have a smartphone running on iOS or Android, just follow these easy steps to contribute.

1. Go to the App Store or Google Play. You can also use your tablets. 
2. Download the GLOBE Observer App.


3. Login using the username: themindmuseumclouds@gmail.com
4. Login using the password: TMMclouds2016 (NOTE: This password is case sensitive).



You can make your own account. However, NASA will prepare an animation of the data gathered. Your data will be part of the animation only if it were taken using a science museum's account, like The Mind Museum's.

5. After clicking 'next' to the tutorial pages, you will see the app's main page. There, choose the 'Clouds' protocol. 


For now, GLOBE Clouds is the only protocol you can choose. NASA is still working on other protocols to be added in future updates. 

6. Using the app, make observations of the sky and take pictures of clouds. 


You don't have to be connected to the Internet to make observations. The data you collect will be stored on your smartphone until you upload it to the database. 


7. Upload your observations and see them appear on NASA's database!


The screenshot above shows the data gathered in some parts of Asia last August 16. Note the data gathered from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Contribute to filling up that map!

The GLOBE Observer app is very user friendly. Upon opening, the app will essentially guide you through the process of making the observations and uploading them to the database. If you want to learn more about using the app, you can watch this tutorial video.

The official data-gathering period for the Global Experiment runs from October 1 to 15, 2016. However, you can and are encouraged to keep on making observations beyond this period. NASA will be using all observations for even bigger and more long-term projects. 

Why are NASA and the world's science museums coming together to ask you to take pictures of clouds? It's to help us plan for a better future for humanity and the planet. Read on to learn how your cloud pictures can lead to some serious science and even help us plan for humanity's future.

The Global Experiment

This 10th of November, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), of which The Mind Museum is a member, will be celebrating the role of science museums in the global community. This year's celebration will be the first-ever International Science Center and Museum Day (ISCSMD). 

In preparation for this year's celebration, ASTC is teaming up with NASA in facilitating the Global Experiment, a worldwide citizen science project. 

Citizen science happens when the public actively participates in scientific endeavors. For example, people all over the world report their sightings of birds, fishes, plants, and other organisms. This helps professional biologists determine the range of the habitat of these plants and animals. 

Other people help professional astronomers sift through the data gathered by telescopes. They might be on the lookout for signals that indicate the possible existence of exoplanets. Members of the public who participate in such projects are called citizen scientists. 

This young woman from the Congo is teaching an older woman to use an app that helps them
monitor biodiversity in their forest. Both are citizen scientists.
Image credit: Extreme Citizen Science: ExCiteS, University College London. 
By joining the Global Experiment, you become a citizen scientist. As a citizen scientist, you will be contributing to the science behind one of the biggest problems facing humanity right now - climate change. 

The Global Experiment aims to provide clues that can help us determine the link between climate change and cloud formation. Earth-orbiting satellites are already performing a lot of great observations of clouds. However, they cannot give scientists the whole picture because they can only directly see the tops of clouds. This is why scientists still have to make cloud observations from the ground. 

Satellites orbiting the Earth can only directly see cloud tops. Observation from the ground is still
needed so scientists get a full view of what's going on.
Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
 
Now here's why the help of citizen scientists is needed. There are only so many professional scientists studying the atmosphere around the world. Even if all of them gathered cloud observations, that would be barely enough to give them the whole picture. By making and uploading observations of clouds, you can help the professionals get a bigger picture (literally). 

Clouds and Climate Change

Clouds play a very important role in the Earth's climate. They carry water from one part of the world and release it as rain or snow in other parts. They can contribute to climate change by trapping in heat that would otherwise bounce back to outer space. However, they can also slow down this process by blocking heat coming from the Sun. 

High-floating clouds can trap more heat in the atmosphere. Low-lying clouds can block more heat.
Evidence is growing that over all, more clouds are trapping in heat than blocking it.
Image credit: Skeptical Science. 
Clouds also tell a lot about what's going on in the atmosphere. They can tell us things such as the level of moisture in the air, the temperature, or the speed and direction of winds high above the ground. Because the warming of the planet leads to more cloud formation, they can also tell us how fast our climate is changing. 

In other words, clouds are an effect, a cause, and a potential suppressor of climate change. This complex relationship between clouds and climate change is what makes studying them so important and interesting. 

Different types of clouds float at different heights from the ground.
Image credit: Encyclopedia Britannica.
Because of climate change, extreme weather conditions such as droughts, heat waves, and super typhoons become more frequent and intense. Climate change results in the melting of the ice caps, which leads to the rise in the sea level. This in turn threatens coastal areas, low-lying islands, and the world's supply of fresh water. Climate change also threatens our food supply by making it more difficult for crops to grow where they used to flourish. 

In other words, climate change leads to destruction, disease, and lots of people dying. This is why it is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. 

Climate change is happening everywhere and is affecting everyone. The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable to its effects.
Image credit: Environmental Protection Agency.

 By participating in the Global Experiment, you will be contributing to our knowledge of the current state of our climate, how fast it's changing, and in what direction. This knowledge will be important in creating strategies to slow down and adapt to climate change. 

So what are you waiting for? Start doing some important science, citizen scientist!


To learn more about The Mind Museum's exhibitions as well as upcoming and regular activities, visit the museum's website, and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

REFERENCES: 

1. Association of Science-Technology Centers. (2016). Global Experiment. Retrieved from: http://www.iscsmd.org
2. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2016). About GLOBE. Retrieved from: https://www.globe.gov.
3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2016). A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change. Retrieved from: https://www3.epa.gov

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