Archive from April 2015
CosmoQuestScience & Astronomy
28. April 2015

This year’s CosmoQuest Hangoutathon did not only result in astounding, record-breaking donations of over $36000, but also in more than 36 hours of video. Like in the last two years, I went through the recorded Youtube videos again and prepared video links to each segment. So here is the annotated CosmoQuest 2015 Hangoutathon – 36+ hours of science, astronomy and much more!

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CosmoQuestScience & Astronomy
27. April 2015

Last night, something absolutely incredible happened: after 36 hours of non-stop fundraising, the CosmoQuest 2015 Hangoutathon achieved its goal and received an astounding $36,176.42 in donations – so much more than in the last two years! So thank you to all the guests and to everyone who donated, watched, tirelessy shared out all the links, promoted the Hangoutathon and also did  a lot of citizen science – you all made this a tremendous success and the CosmoQuest team very, very happy! Special thanks also goes out to the members of the WSH Crew Community (full disclosure: of which I am actually a co-founder and moderator), who actually helped to organize the Hangoutathon when Pamela Gay was too busy working on the very grant proposal which will hopefully ensure the continued survival of CosmoQuest later this year.

It was an incredible weekend full of awesome science, astronomy, public outreach and even music. Potato salad turned out to a major theme, because CosmoQuest director and Hangoutathon host Pamela Gay was legitimately outraged about the potato salad kickstarter that got $55K last year. Later, everything came to be full circle when Hangoutathon guest Geoff Notkin admitted he might have inadvertedly boosted the whole potato salad thing together with his old friend, author Neil Gaiman – but the anger against the success of potato salad compared to science turned out to be one one of the most incredible aspects of the fundraiser and will maybe result in something even more!

There were a few technical hiccups because of some major internet outages in North America, but the team sailed right through it, often thanks to the incredible guests. The whole Hangoutathon is still available in its recorded version in six parts, collected here in a Youtube Playlist, but I will also prepare a complete index matched to the schedule like I had done for the previous two fundraisers in 2013 and 2014. It will take a few days because 36 hours of video is a lot to get through, but once it’s done there will be easy access to the separate segments without having to actually cut and re-render the video thanks to the ability to put timecodes in a Youtube URL.

So thank you EVERYBODY again, stay tuned for more and keep doing citizen science on!

CosmoQuestScience & Astronomy
24. April 2015

Quick update: The amazing Hangoutathon is over now and the donations goal of $36000 was achieved!
The CosmoQuest 2015 Hangoutathon Fundraiser starts on Saturday – see my previous post for more information! Here are the five event pages plus a playlist with the Youtube streams from which the mega-hangout will be broadcast in succession – the times will appear in your local timezone on the event pages:

Part 1: Saturday, April 25th – 15:00-23:00 UTC
Part 2: Saturday, April 25th – 23:00 – Sunday, April 26th – 07:00 UTC
Part 3: Sunday, April 26th – 07:00-15:00 UTC
Part 4: Sunday, April 26th – 15:00-23:00 UTC
Part 5: Sunday, April 26th – 23:00 UTC – Monday, April 27th – 03:00 UTC
Youtube Playlist with all five broadcast streams for direct viewing e.g. on mobile devices

The schedule is now available on the main Hangoutathon page as a Google Sheet document and you can follow CosmoQuest director and Hangoutathon moderator Pamela Gay on Twitter for the latest updates. There will be a lot of amazing events and guests, some of which have already appeared in the previous two fundraisers and some who have been newly recruited. This year, CosmoQuest is also teaming up with Astronomers without Borders to celebrate the 2015 Global Star Party, so there will be stargazing if the weather permits where it’s dark in the world and many other astronomy-related events!

You can also participate and ask questions in all the usual ways like the event pages, the Q&A and on all the social media channels – you can follow CosmoQuest on Google+Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what’s happening. I will be part of the team monitoring social media, the event pages and Q&A, answering questions, steering people in the right directions and generally keeping an eye on things, so you will definitively see me around.

And I will close this post with a variation of what I wrote in the last two years: While the Hangoutathon is not a pay-per-view broascast and watching is free, the whole reason for this amazing event is to raise money for CosmoQuest. So if you like what they are doing and care about science and astronomy education not only in the USA but worldwide, please consider making a donation – I’m sure that even small amounts are going to help. I will not be able to give very much myself, but if you are in a situation that does not allow you to make donations, you can still spread the word and do citizen science for CosmoQuest yourself.

CosmoQuestScience & Astronomy
22. April 2015

The Lego Curiosity Rover says – go map the Moon on! Or you can go planet mapping on Mercury or asteroid mapping on Vesta – and soon you can continue on a world solely inhabited by robots!

This is a post I originally wrote last year, but with another CosmoQuest Hangoutathon coming this weekend, it’s time for a repost in a slightly updated version.

The mapping projects have always been a cornerstone of the citizen science projects of CosmoQuest, allowing everybody to contribute to science in an easy, instantly understandable way. Crowdsourcing the identification of craters and other unusual landmarks on the Moon, Mercury and Vesta is as easy as drawing a circle on the screen, but helps the scientific understanding of these surfaces. And the success is there – in March 2014, the Moon Mappers study was accepted in Icarus, a major peer-reviewed scientific journal, showing that crater identification by citizen scientists is practically as good as if experts were doing it. Three years after the beginning of CosmoQuest, the idea of creating a virtual research lab has been scientifically proven to be extremely useful.

But what does this really mean for the participating non-scientist? In preparation for last year’s hangoutathon fundraiser, a new series of articles headlined Your Science Results Explained were giving the answers to this question, because the original paper is admittedly not so easy to understand for non-scientists. But leave it to CosmoQuest to boil the publication down to a more easy level, because this is what they do best: making science accessible for everyone!

To get started with the Moon-, Mercury- or Vesta-Mapping, all you need is to register for free on – this login also works for their Forum as well – and start circling craters and marking other unusual features on the Mappers websites. You will be shown an introductory video guide the first time you log in so you will know what to do, but all in all it’s fairly easy and fascinating as well, because you get to explore the surfaces in great detail and often see images nobody has ever closely looked at before. The mappers websites not only work on the desktop PC, but also on tablets snd even smartphones. Drawing the circles on the tablet is a bit tricky especially on small display sizes, but even on 7″ devices it works well especially if you can use a stylus. The website has also been completely overhauled in 2014 and now works much better across devices and screens of all sorts.

There is also a free Android app called Moon Mappers Crater Decay from CosmoQuest which lets you grade crater images on their level of decay. And you can also buy their educational game Earth or Not Earth for $1.99 (or €1.49 if you’re in Europe) with the proceeds going to CosmoQuest to fund their programmers – the app is also available for iOS devices now. Even if you don’t want to play it, it’s a great way to make a micro-donation!

And regarding donations, of course you can always give to CosmoQuest, but if you can’t, at least spread the word and support them by doing a little public outreach. And watch the Hangoutathon this weekend, it will be amazing!

14. April 2015

Note: please see the main Hangoutathon page and the second blog post for current information!

It’s been more than two years since the sequestration and the following loss of a NASA education and public outreach grant has hit the citizen science project CosmoQuest, but with the help of donations it has been able to survive and even expand and improve. While there have been two relatively successful fundraisers in 2013 and 2014 dubbed Hangoutathons after the Google Hangouts platform, the donations only go so far before they run out. There may be a new NASA grant on the horizon for CosmoQuest later this year, but until then the project still needs support and that’s why a third 36-hour Hangoutathon is going to happen at the end of April in less than two weeks.

So what happens on a Hangoutathon exactly? For that you can go to the index pages of the 2013 and 2014 Hangoutathons to find out – the full recordings of both events are on Youtube and while it’s really a bit too much to watch everything in one go, this is a treasure trove of science, astronomy and fun of all kinds. A full schedule of the 2015 Hangoutathon will probably be available soon and this year it’s going to be even more exciting because amongst a lot of other things CosmoQuest is partnering up with Astronomers without Borders and the Global Star Parties of the Global Astronomy Month!

For now, here are a couple of links:

• Pamela Gay’s April 2013 post about the funding situation at CosmoQuest

 Last year’s blog post from me about CosmoQuest’s Moon- Planet- and Asteroid-Mappers

The Journey to CosmoQuest – my 2013 article on how I found CosmoQuest and more

• Follow CosmoQuest on Google+Twitter and Facebook!

The WSH Crew Community on Google+, supporting the CosmoQuest and Universe Today Hangouts

There will be at least a second post, if not some others about the Hangoutathon and CosmoQuest before the end of next week, so stay tuned!

Science & Astronomy
12. April 2015

I’ve been so busy that I almost forgot Yuri’s Night and this year, I’m simply adaping last year’s post and added a few new links and other information to it – no need to write something entirely new each year! Yuri’s Night is an open, worldwide celebration of humanity’s first spaceflight on April 12th, 1961, which was also the first flight of the Space Shuttle twenty years later. It’s not about Soviet spaceflight or Yuri Gagarin specifically, but actually the fact that this was the beginning of human space exploration itself. It’s not about politics at all, which is especially important this year due to the tensions around the Ukraine and Crimea, but only a way to raise more public interest about space exploration. This is why Yuri’s Night has also been called the World Space Party, a celebration that humankind has ventured off its home planet for the first time.

The number of events on the Yuri’s Night website is about the same as last year, when it went down from over 300 in 2013 to barely 200, so the interest at least seems to be stable.
but there are still a lot of Space Parties listed, even here in Germany – as usual, unfortunately nowhere near me. But the organizers  leave it up to everbody to make up their own event – throw a star party, just meet somewhere, screen a movie or hold an online event! Everybody can celebrate in their own way, but the organizers would just appreciate if you would let them know what’s going on so they can list it on their website.

I’m not throwing much of a party this year again, because there will be unfortunately no stargazing opportunities at all due to the lousy weather, but I will be watching out for some special online events. This year, the Yuri’s Night team is going to talk to the New Horizons team, whose spacecraft will make a Pluto flyby soon, in a live hangout at 6pm UTC on Sunday. Of course, April is, as every year, Global Astronomy Month and I’m not sure if Astronomers without Borders have anything planned tomorrow, but there will be some online events around somewhere. The Virtual Star Party is, unfortunately, still on hiatus, but you can always watch all the past shows on Youtube. And while this is all going on, Amy Shira Teitel is live-tweeting the Apollo 13 mission with a 45-year time delay!

And there is also something over on DVDLog too with a little collection of space-themed reviews, which I fortunately now have mostly translated to English. Keep watching my stream on Google+, find out more about Science and Astronomy related podcasts in the now regularly updated Hangouts Schedule or join us in the WSH Crew Community! And keep watching the skies… if you don’t have clouds overhead, you might see six humans in a big space station flying overhead. Some of them are even on Twitter and are posting photos and more from space!

Bibra-OnlineCosmoQuestDVDLogGoogle+Science & Astronomy
4. April 2015

Well, that was fast. It feels like Christmas was just last week and now suddenly it’s Easter again – how did that happen? It doesn’t help much that Easter is very early this year and the weather has been less like early spring and more like late winter, so it really doesn’t feel like the season with the eggs and the bunnies! But at least it’s not as bad as 2013 when we actually had snow on Good Friday. I hope everyone’s having a nice Easter holiday weekend – this year, I don’t have much of a program except some recycled content and some pretty pictures, but I’d still I’d like to wish everyone a nice Easter holiday! This post is just a little roundup of what I’ve been doing lately on the web – so what has everybody else been up to?

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