New Carbon Minerals

The Carbon Mineral Challenge is a worldwide hunt to find new carbon-bearing minerals by 2019. An estimated 145 such minerals remain undiscovered. Both professional and amateur geologists can get involved. This poster shows some recent discoveries:


Poster for the Carbon Mineral Challenge (click for full-res pdf)

Listed in the poster are:


Abellaite, NaPb2(CO3)2(OH) – photo: Matteo Chinellato


National Science Week 2016

National Science Week is here again in Australia. See the website for events during the week. You can also read a science book or visit a museum. Even if you’re not in Australia, there’s the chance to get involved in a citizen science project to identify wildlife in photographs. So why not take part?

Creating an Australian Feather Map


Photo: Louise Docker, 2007

Australian scientists are encouraging people to collect feathers found on the ground or in the water in wetlands (with details of where they were collected). After analysis using mass spectrometry and high resolution X-ray fluorescence, a feather map will be constructed. All aspiring citizen scientists, young and old, can get involved and follow the project on Instagram. It looks like a great way to monitor bird populations in wetlands!


Firefly watch!


A firefly at night (photo: “Emmanuelm”)

The Museum of Science, Boston has an interesting citizen science project running – their Firefly Watch. Anybody can register and add observations of fireflies in their local area.

The project has been running since 2008, and has accumulated over 30,000 observations so far (mostly from the US – see map above), which are available online. The graph below shows the result of fitting a family of Gaussian “bell curves” to the data. Observed firefly numbers peaked around June 23 each year (day 174 when it’s not a leap year), with a slight increase in the height of the peak over time. There seems to be no significant change to the timing of the peak.

National Science Week 2014

National Science Week in Australia is here again. See the website for events during the week. Even if you’re not in Australia, there’s the chance to get involved in a citizen science project to extract weather observations from old ship log books. You can also read a science book or visit a museum. So why not take part?

A spacecraft for all

In an interesting collaboration with Google, the ISEE-3 Reboot Project has given us the SpacecraftForAll website, showing ISEE-3’s position and some (not yet all) data feeds. The magnetometer plot below is one example. Later today, ISEE-3 will make its closest approach to the Moon, and this will mark the official start of the “ISEE-3 Citizen Science Interplanetary Mission.”

It is interesting to compare the ISEE-3 readings with those from the ACE probe – see the Real Time Solar Wind website, including magnetometer and proton plots.

Other ISEE-3 data is available here, as previously discussed.

Hacking the stars (#4)

Now that the ISEE-3 Reboot Project has successfully started talking to the almost-abandoned ISEE-3 space probe (isn’t it great?), it’s worth taking an inventory of the (rather old) experiments on board. This is my understanding of the last known status:

1. BAH: Solar Wind Plasma [electrons only, ion portion failed]

2. OGH: Solar Wind Ion Composition [operational]

3. SMH: Vector Helium Magnetometer [operational]

4. SCH: Plasma Waves Spectrum Analyzer [operational]

5. DFH/EPAS: Energetic Particle Anisotropy Spectrometer – see image below, from Imperial College [operational]

6. SBH: Radio Mapping of Solar Wind Disturbances in 3-D [operational]

7A. ANH: X- and Gamma-Ray Bursts [operational]

7B. ANH: Interplanetary and Solar Electrons > 2 keV [below 300 keV failed]

8. HOH: Low-Energy Cosmic Rays [partial failure]

9. TYH: Medium Energy Cosmic Rays [operational]

10. STH: Cosmic Ray Isotope Spectrometer [partial failure]

11. HKH: High-Energy Cosmic Rays [partial failure]

12. MEH: Cosmic-Ray Energy Spectrum [operational]

13. Gamma-Ray Bursts, 0.05-6.5 MeV [partial failure]

We’ll soon find out how accurate that list is. And hopefully, once the preliminaries are over, someone will think of some really cool stuff to do with that equipment…

Even if we get just one good data feed onto the web, I’ll consider the reboot a glorious success.

Update 1: The ISEE-3 Reboot Project reports successfully receiving engineering telemetry from the probe, although work is still required on decoding it:

7c 02 02 02 02 02 02 02 7c 02 02 02 02 02 02 02
7c 00 02 00 00 f2 00 00 7c 02 02 79 a0 00 00 00
7c 00 02 33 c8 02 4d 02 7c 4b 02 76 00 00 00 00
7c 02 02 53 01 02 39 02 7c 44 02 00 b1 49 00 00
7c 00 02 5a 00 19 5c 64 7c 4b 02 0e a0 00 00 00
7c 0e 02 4b 47 63 91 1d 7c 42 02 4d 36 00 00 00
7c 45 02 44 4e 8a 89 02 7c ce 02 50 a4 00 00 00
7c 48 02 32 4b b5 d2 ad 7c 33 02 12 fc 81 9f be

Update 2: The Reboot Project also reports that they are receiving information from the Vector Helium Magnetometer.

Hacking the stars (#3)

The ISEE-3 Reboot Project has been communicating with the ancient ISEE-3 space probe, using hardware at the Arecibo Observatory (above) in Puerto Rico, and support from around the world.

The reboot team report that “We are now in command of the isee-3 spacecraft … our team has established two-way communication with the ISEE-3 spacecraft and has begun commanding it to perform specific functions.” Well done, team, and let’s hope that the next steps in the project continue to work well!