If you ever wanted to go to the moon, there is now a way that it possible - in a manner of speaking. Moonzoo.org launched their newest addition of Moon Zoo on May 11, 2010 which allows anyone to virtually go to the moon and have what can be best described as the closest thing to a moonwalk with a regular home PC as is available anywhere. Best of all, this is all built using genuine NASA photos, and while you may not be an astronaut or scientists, you can make contributions while exploring that actually help mankind - and possibly even help save the world. If that sounds like a good use of your time, read on.
All of the images used to create the virtual moon are new high resolution photos from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The detail in these photos is beyond amazing. They truly have to be seen to be believed. While you are puttering around the moon taking your leisurely stroll, you can help scientists better understand the moon and lunar activity- that is the really cool part.
Chris Lintott of Oxford University, who is the chairman for Citizen Science Alliance that developed Moon Zoo, is calling on everyone to pitch in and help out. He stated upon release that volunteers are needed to really make the site work and become a valuable tool to scientific community rather than just a really cool place to visit. He specifically stated that people are needed to help identify craters, boulders, cracks in the lunar surface, and sinuous channels where lava may have flowed.
Who knows, you may even find things on the moon left behind by man as parts of rockets and debris are bound to still be visible on the surface somewhere. You may even find a cave, hole, or who knows what that no human has identified yet. It all depends on your sharp eyes - and more than likely a fair dose of luck. It is still amazing that the ability to do so is present and open and waiting for anyone to discover from the comfort of their own home.
Lintott points out that even if each person only spent 5 minutes of their moonwalk counting craters in one specific region it is an invaluable service. Changes in the number craters can help scientists build and track the number of impacts from meteorites for instance to help predict future lunar impacts - or even Earth impacts. By knowing where craters are and how many there are in a given region, they can begin to build a comprehensive profile of their age based in part on their depth. That is where you can help save the world. Okay, it isn’t as sexy a scenario as they had in movies like “Armageddon, but it is still pretty awesome.
It’s not just walking around and counting though, there is an active forum community which they began building prior to the launch where people can come in and discuss where they have searched, what they found, and speculate on what it all means. People that find particularly cool or odd features can share locations with others so that everyone can weigh in on what it may be. How could would it be if you found a hidden cave that no one ever noticed before? Wouldn’t it be even cooler if you discovered something and got to name it?
For students there may be no more comprehensive warehouse of lunar geology and history available from any source aside from NASA that is available to the public. For people that want to take part in surveying the moon there are easy to follow fully comprehensive tutorials that teach you everything you need to know to get started. No stone was left unturned making this both a fun and potentially invaluable resource.
Whether you just want to go poke around and take a near virtual moonwalk or really get involved with mapping out the surface of the moon this is something worth taking time out of your life to do. It is extremely addictive once you get started so it is best to maybe set aside an hour or so if possible to really look around and see what is going on. Have fun, and maybe make a discovery no in the world ever has - how cool is that?