Stars aren’t meant to just disappear, but countless bright objects that once appeared in the sky in the 1950s no longer do.
To solve the mystery, scientists have turned to a growing field called citizen science, where everyday people of all ages around the world can take part in research projects aimed at answering genuine scientific questions about our surroundings, be it further Earth or in space. The citizen science project Vanishing & Appearing Sources During a Century of Observations (VASCO), which began in 2017, is delving into the archives to see how the Oldest change.
“In the Citizen Science project, we compare images from the 1950s with modern sky images,” explains Beatriz Villarroel, the principal investigator of the VASCO project, an astrophysicist at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Sweden and first author of a new paper describing the project. Space.com said in an email. “The ultimate goal is to identify an object that is clearly visible in several old images but is no longer visible today.”
With the project, for example, volunteers are examining 150,000 candidates for “flight stars” that come from a Study 2020 (opens in new tab) to see if objects in the 1950s images can be found in modern images. The project examined 15,593 possible image pairs within the data, or about 10% of all candidates, and identified 798 objects that they classify as “disappearing”.
The “disappearing” stars could turn out to be anything from a flaring star or a supernova until the afterglow of a gamma ray burst.
The research also contributes to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence REMEMBER, according to Jamal Mimouni, an astrophysicist at the University of Constantine 1 in Algeria and co-author of the paper, who noted that SETI has traditionally been led by scientists focused on radio astronomy. VASCO takes a different approach, considering “disappearing stars” as a potential sign of advanced civilizations.
“You could say it’s another twist on SETI,” he told Space.com in an email. The search is also drawing closer to home, he said. “We are also interested in searching for ET artifacts in orbit around Earth by looking ahead for fast solar reflections (glits) from satellites and space debris.sputnik Pictures.”
And the VASCO project isn’t just for adults. An offshoot project, VASCO-Kids, also enables younger astronomy fans to take part in scientific studies.
“The goal of VASCO-Kids is to spread the word about the global VASCO project, which is aimed at students and children of young age in general, and it also aims to promote this project as a strong support for the Echeima Amine-Khodja, a veteran amateur astronomer who recently completed her Masters in Astrophysics at University Constantine 1 and has worked with VASCO and VASCO-Kids for two years, told Space.com an email with.
Since VASCO is open to the public, the web interface (opens in new tab) is designed to be user-friendly to enable people of all scientific backgrounds to examine images for “disappearing” stars. VASCO-Kids is an example of public engagement for a younger audience that can use the web interface to support the project.
The citizen science project VASCO has already received several awards in the scientific community. Villarroel received the 2021 L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science award in Sweden for her work on the VASCO project and the 2022 L’Oreal-UNESCO “International Rising Talents” award for women in science, making her the first is Sweden receives the award. Several studies based on VASCO research were also either submitted or published in several journals including The Astronomical Journal, Acta Astronautica and Scientific Reports (opens in new tab).
As VASCO moves on, the project is looking to improve its methods, including by boosting the artificial intelligence the project uses and collecting infrared and optical images of some of the “most interesting candidates.”
“Being part of the VASCO citizen science project helps the person learn more and develop new skills and practice scientific research like a real scientist,” said Hichem Guergouri, an astrophysicist at the CERIST research institute in Algeria and co-author of the paper. said Space.com in an email. “The results we might find from the citizen science project might even lead to some amazing big new discoveries that everyone would love to see their name in, so I encourage everyone to join the VASCO citizen science project.” .”