RECON – Recruiting citizen scientists to explore the outer solar system!

I’ve been busy of late. This week is the NSTA conference, but last week I was included in a team being trained to be part of a project funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) called RECON – Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network.

Each of the initial 10 teams (which will expand to 40 during the project) was given a Celestron CPC1100 telescope, a  MallinCam B&W Special video camera and more. We spent 4 days last week training at the WNC Jack C. Davis Observatory in Carson City, Nevada. When we do our assigned/scheduled observations we will include middle and high school students in our teams and train them to set up and use the telescopes, cameras and other equipment, as well as the science behind the project. So the students will help collect the data for the project … sometimes at 2 or 3 in the morning!

Setting up telescopes for a practice observation as part of our training.

So exactly what will we be doing? From the project web site: “Our project will consist of a linked network of 10 telescope sites and eventually 40 sites, across the western United States. Each community participating in RECON will be expected to gather a team of 2-6 members. As a team member, you will be working within your community and collaborating with others in our network to collect astronomical data.”

And: “RECON – the Research and Education Cooperative Occultation Network – is a citizen science research project aimed at exploring the outer solar system. Funded by theNational Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Astronomical Sciences, this project involves teachers, students, amateur astronomers, and community members from across the Western United States to conduct coordinated telescope observations to measure the sizes of objects from a region called the Kuiper Belt. *

Our goal and mission is to measure the size of many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), while making authentic scientific research more accessible to local communities. We are discovering more about our solar system – and we couldn’t do it without the help of our citizen scientists. We’d love to have you on board – to get involved, please contact us.

*To find out more about the Kuiper Belt and our 500-km long citizen science observation network, visit our Project Description page.”

It will be interesting to see how I do at work the day after an early morning observation! Fortunately the observation site for my team is at an observatory less than a mile from my house. I’ll hopefully report back as we make observations … the first one should happen in May.

The Reno Recon telescope set up and ready to go as soon as it gets dark.

Learning is messy!

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