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    Nasa asks for help to identify thousands of images of Earth taken from orbit

    This is a discussion on Nasa asks for help to identify thousands of images of Earth taken from orbit within the Everyday Life forums, part of the Community channel category; Nasa asks for help to identify hundreds of images of Earth taken from space | Mail Online Can you spot ...

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      Nasa asks for help to identify thousands of images of Earth taken from orbit

      Nasa asks for help to identify hundreds of images of Earth taken from space | Mail Online
      Can you spot YOUR city from space? Nasa asks for help to identify thousands of images of Earth taken from orbit


      • Nasa database includes over 1.8 million pictures of Earth
      • Has asked for help in identifying exactly what they show
      • All images will be available online for free


      Over 1.8 million images of Earth have been taken from space - and Nasa hopes internet users can help it pinpoint exactly what they show.

      A new online sites hopes user's will be able to spot their city in the images.

      They will then form part of a huge online database of space pictures.

      The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth, Nasa is making available images ranging from the Mercury missions of the 1960s to photos recently snapped from the International Space Station.

      HOW IT WORKS

      Users can download an app to help.

      The ISS image will be loaded in the left panel and a map on the right one.

      The aim is try to identify the city.

      Users have some simple tools, including zooming in and out, dragging, and even rotating the image (click on Shift and the left mouse button).

      When you identify a picture, just click on the map to identify its position.

      The longitude and latitude coordinates will appear on the list.

      The hope, Nasa says, is that the images 'could help save energy, contribute to better human health and safety and improve our understanding of atmospheric chemistry.'

      The catalog contains more than 1.8 million photos, about 1.3 million of them from the space station and roughly 30% of them taken at night.

      The Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) is leading a project called Cities at Night to catalog the images.

      It includes three citizen science components: Dark Skies of ISS, Night Cities, and Lost at Night.

      Dark Skies asks people to sort images into those of cities, stars and other objects.

      'Anyone can help,' says Alejandro Sanchez, a Ph.D. student at UCM.

      'In fact, without the help of citizens, it is almost impossible to use these images scientifically.

      'Algorithms cannot distinguish between stars, cities, and other objects, such as the moon. Humans are much more efficient for complex image analysis.'

      For Night Cities, citizen scientists use their knowledge of local geography to identify points in night images and match them to positions on maps.

      As Sanchez explains, a resident of a city can likely identify its features more easily than someone who does not live there.

      This geo-referenced data will be used to generate light maps of cities.

      Lost at Night requires the most skill, seeking to identify cities in images encompassing a circle 310 miles around.

      'We don't know which direction the astronaut pointed the camera, only where the station was at the time the image was taken,' explains Sanchez.

      'Some images are bright cities but others are small towns.

      'It is like a puzzle with 300,000 pieces.'

      So far, hundreds of volunteers have classified nearly 20,000 images, but to ensure accuracy, each one should be classified by multiple individuals.

      One of the outcomes of the project will be determining the optimum number of people needed to inspect each image, but its primary goal is producing an open atlas of night time images available any time for use by the media, public, and scientists.

      Scientists can, for example, use colors in images to estimate the types of light sources and, thus, the energy efficiency of a particular city.

      Researchers could use the data to compare the lighting and the economic health of a city as well.

      'A clear example is comparison of Madrid and Berlin,' Sanchez says.

      'Madrid is the capital of Spain, a country facing a major economic crisis.

      'It is much brighter in astronaut images than Berlin, the capital of Germany, the country with the healthiest economy in Europe.

      'Perhaps that is an indication that Germany more efficiently manages its resources.

      'The images can provide evidence and data to verify that.'

      Other potential applications include evaluating lighting for road and public safety and correlating light pollution with effects on human health and biodiversity.

      'But scientists need your help to make that happen.'

      Before 2003, night images from the space station could be blurry, even with high-speed film and manual tracking, because the station moves at about 17,500 mph.

      In 2003, enterprising astronaut Don Pettit used a drill and assorted parts he found on the station to cobble together a 'barn-door tracker,' a lower-tech predecessor to the European Space Agency's NightPod, which was installed at the space station nine years later.

      NightPod's motorized tripod compensates for the space station's speed, providing what NASA scientist William Stefanov says are the highest-resolution night images from orbit. Satellites collect data more regularly, but the photos tend to be lower resolution.

      'Now the pictures are clear, but their location may not be, which limits their usefulness.

      'That's where citizen science comes in,' the NASA news release says.

      Hundreds of volunteers have stepped up so far, classifying almost 20,000 photos, but NASA says multiple individuals should review each image to ensure accuracy.
      HOW YOU CAN HELP

      The Complutense University of Madrid is spearheading efforts to catalog the photos and corral citizen input.
      It has created three projects:

      1. Dark skies. This is the easiest project, as it requires no scientific expertise. 'Anyone can help' by sorting the images into the categories: cities, stars or other objects, said Alejandro Sanchez, doctoral student at Complutense.

      'Without the help of citizens, it is almost impossible to use these images scientifically. Algorithms cannot distinguish between stars, cities and other objects, such as the moon. Humans are much more efficient for complex image analysis,' he said.

      2. Night cities. Looking at night images, citizen scientists can tap their knowledge of local geography to match photos with positions on maps. Residents of a city can more easily identify a city's features than those who don't live there, Sanchez said. The data will be used to generate light maps of cities.

      3. Lost at night. This is the trickiest, as it aims to identify cities in photos with 310-mile circumferences.

      'We don't know which direction the astronaut pointed the camera, only where the station was at the time the image was taken,' Sanchez said.

      'Some images are bright cities, but others are small towns. It is like a puzzle with 300,000 pieces.'




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      Re: Nasa asks for help to identify thousands of images of Earth taken from orbit

      If you want to be a space detective, click here The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth - Image Detective

      TomD


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