Citizen Science at Dunsink
Citizen science allows members of the public to become partners in the research that we do at Dunsink, and enables people them to make real contributions to scientific research. In 2016 we initiated some projects to restart observing activities at DIAS Dunsink for citizen science and education, and we have been expanding our activities since then. We are establishing partnerships with various professional and amateur groups that have potential for scientific results, and also provide opportunities for education and public engagement at all levels.
We now run four instruments that both citizen and professional scientists can use in near-realtime.
- Meteor Observations: check out meteor images and the project page.
- Solar and Ionospheric Monitoring
- Weather Station
- Light Pollution
We started meteor observations with the installation of two cameras connected to the NEMETODE network in September 2016, funded by SFI, and a radio-based meteor detection system followed in January 2017. NEMETODE is a growing network of amateur astronomers with meteor-detection equipment, aiming for continuous sky coverage above the UK and Ireland. Building on this success, we installed two new cameras in October 2019 with higher-resolution imagery and wider sky coverage. April 2020 saw the start of a Royal Society Public Engagement grant to expand the All-Sky meteor cameras over 5 more locations covering most of the island of Ireland (in progress). With these data, we can study meteors in a systematic way and learn more about their origin, composition, and size distribution.
Solar and Ionospheric Monitoring
The ionosphere is the ionised layer of the Earth’s upper atmosphere that stretch from 50 km to nearly 1,000 km above the Earth’s surface. From time to time, huge explosions on the Sun, called flares, can increase the ionisation of this layer, which can be monitored by bouncing very low frequency (VLF) radio waves of it.
In Autumn 2020, we installed a VLF antenna at Dunsink to monitor the Earth’s ionosphere as part of a global network called the SuperSID network. The SuperSID (built by Stanford University) is tuned to a number of VLF transmitters in Europe, the US and as far away as Japan.
We will soon be posting near-realtime VLF measurements of the ionosphere from Dunsink which will allow professional and citizen scientists to monitor the ionosphere and the impacts of solar flares on it.
The Irish love taking about the weather and we at Dunsink are no different! In 2018 we installed a Vantage Pro II weather station to monitor the weather from Dunsink, with some help from our friends at Met Éireann. It is recording data every 30 minutes since then: live and historical data are available on our weather page, and now also from Met Éireann’s WOW-IE service.
A “light meter” was installed at the Observatory in 2019, to measure the night-sky brightness and light pollution at Dunsink since 2019. Working with Prof. Brian Espey of Trinity College Dublin, we are contributing data to a nationwide project monitoring the evolution of light pollution in Ireland. With this dataset, researchers can make the case in support of initiatives to reduce light pollution and give everyone the opportunity to see the stars. Some of the raw data are available here.