Volunteers Wanted to Help Classify Stars

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of the Gaia probe floating at a Lagrangian point beyond the Earth-Moon system, also called L2. (ESA/D. Ducros, 2013)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for amateur astronomers to assist with its review of data from its Gaia Mission. What is the Gaia Mission you ask? The ESA site explains this and much more:

The mission was launched in late 2013 and now lies some 1.5 million km from Earth. With its two powerful telescopes and three science instruments, Gaia is creating the largest and most precise 3D map of the Milky Way. It does so by determining the position of its target stars and registering how they change throughout time.

So far, Gaia has measured 1.8 billion stars with unprecedented precision, the richest star catalogue to date. Gaia’s third major data release, published in 2022, includes 10.5 million variable sources over the entire sky, identified using machine learning methods in a supervised classification scheme.

That’s a lot of data. ESA is now looking for assistance classifying the variable stars, which are the stars that change in brightness over time. This is being done under an ESA-funded citizen science project call the Gaia Vari.

As of today, the project already has over 520 volunteers. You can be one more.

Go here to learn more and be part of the fun.