Just last week, I was praising and encouraging people to participate with the ambitious citizen scientist project, the Zooniverse. Now, if looking for exoplanets, identifying galaxies, examining the surface of the Moon, watching for solar storms, and studying the structure of our Milky Way Galaxy all sound boring to you (and really it shouldn't), then be prepared for their latest project: Ice Hunters.
Ice Hunters will have members of the public contribute in modern space exploration unlike any other way before. You can examine images from the giant Magellan and Subaru telescopes looking for Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBOs. These Pluto-like objects are lumps of ice, frozen chunks that exist on the fringes of our Solar System and may take millennia to circle the Sun once. Astronomers have already identified over a thousand KBOs, and there are likely tens of thousands left to be discovered.
Now, if discovering new objects in our own Solar System wasn't cool enough, you will help choose the next destination or two for a spacecraft to visit. The New Horizons probe is set to buzz past Pluto in July 2015, giving us an unprecedented view of the ice dwarf. Astronomers and researchers are on the edge of their seats for this encounter and are expecting to be amazed. But after New Horizons sails past Pluto, it is going to keep heading deeper into the outer solar system, deep into the Kuiper Belt, the territory of KBOs.
New Horizons has been given the capability to explore further objects than Pluto, and will be visiting one or two of them. With Ice Hunters, the KBOs found by the public will be considered as possible targets. KBOs have never been seen up close before, so your discovery may be one of the first of these objects ever studied up close and personal. Your discovery could lead to a bunch of new understanding about how our Solar System works, and maybe even an indication of how water was brought to the Earth.
It's an exciting prospect, especially for members of the general public. The site makes it just as easy as the other Zooniverse projects. Humans turn out to be really good at identifying these objects, were as computers tend to get confused by false positives in the data. You can read more about how it works here. That is why they need you. They need your eyes and your intelligence, there is far more data available than their are researchers.
Check out Ice Hunters and New Horizons maybe visiting your discovery soon!