A recent citizen science project, directed by researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with assistance from NASA, enables volunteers to play a significant role in helping scientists understand more about the atmosphere on Jupiter. Citizen scientists can assist astrophysicists by categorizing thousands of incredible images taken from the Juno spacecraft with barely a web browser.

The planet Jupiter is found more than 467 million miles from Earth and has a starkly distinct atmosphere made of hydrogen and helium. Even so, Jupiter’s atmosphere includes a wide variety of clouds of different shapes and sizes, vastly like our own planet. Understanding more about Jupiter’s atmosphere can give us new knowledge of weather patterns on our Earth and assist us in discovering more about the initial beginnings of our solar system.

The project, named Jovian Vortex Hunter, is the newest University of Minnesota citizen science undertaking within the Zooniverse platform. Zooniverse, co-founded by the Adler Planetarium and Oxford, is the world’s biggest and most popular people-powered online study platform, with more than two million volunteers from all over the world. These volunteers work as armchair scientists and archivists, helping academic research teams through their projects from the convenience of their own homes.

Sankar said the data they receive from the citizen scientists “will not only be used to study Jupiter but will also help to write a computer algorithm that could speed future identification of Jupiter’s atmospheric features by combining computer help with human expertise.”

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