The stars are not supposed to simply disappear, but the countless bright objects that popped up in the sky in the 1950s are no longer there.
To try to solve the mystery, scientists have turned to a growing field known as citizen science, where ordinary people of all ages around the world can participate in research projects aimed at answering real scientific questions about our surroundings, whether it be on a land or in space. Sources of Evanescence and Emergence Through a Century of Observations (VASCO) The citizen science project, which began in 2017, delves into the archives to find out how stars they change.
“In the Citizen Science project, we compare images from the 1950s with modern images of the sky,” Beatrice Villarroel, principal investigator for the VASCO project, an astrophysicist at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Sweden, and lead author on a new paper describing the project, tells Space.com. org in an email. “The ultimate goal is to identify an object that is clearly visible in many old photographs, but is no longer visible today.”
So volunteers on the project screen 150,000 “fading star” candidates that come from a Study 2020 (Opens in a new tab) To see if the objects in the 1950s photos can be found in modern photos. The project examined 15,593 pairs of candidate images within the data, or approximately 10% of all candidates, and identified 798 items that they classify as “disappeared”.
“Disappearing” stars may turn out to be anything from a glowing star or a star Supernova to the afterglow of a gamma ray burst.
The research also contributes to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, too, according to Djamel Mimouni, an astrophysicist at the University of Constantine 1 in Algeria and a co-author on the paper, who notes that SETI has traditionally been led by scientists focused on radio astronomy. Vasco takes a different approach, seeing “fading stars” as a possible sign of advanced civilizations.
“It might be said to be another evolution of SETI,” he told Space.com in an email. The search is also hitting home, he said. “We are also interested in searching for artifacts from outer space in Earth orbit, by looking for fast solar reflections (luster) from satellites and space debris in pre-Sputnik Pictures “.
And Project VASCO isn’t just for adults. The VASCO-Kids Uninterrupted Project allows young astronomy enthusiasts to participate in scientific studies as well.
“The goal of VASCO-Kids is to promote the global VASCO project around the world targeting pupils and young children in general, and also aims to use this project as a strong support for children’s education in astronomy,” said Echeima Amine-Khoja, a recently completed veteran amateur astronomer. Master’s degree in astrophysics from the University of Constantine 1 who has worked with VASCO and VASCO-Kids for two years, tells Space.com in an email.
Because VASCO is publicly available, the Web interface (Opens in a new tab) It was designed to be user friendly to allow individuals of all scientific backgrounds to scan images for “fading stars”. VASCO-Kids is an example of public participation for younger audiences who use the web interface to help with a project.
The VASCO citizen science project has already garnered some accolades in the science community. Villarroel received the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in Sweden in 2021 for her work on the VASCO project, and then the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science “International Rising Talent” in 2022, making her the first Swede to receive the award. Several studies based on VASCO’s research have also been presented or published in various journals, including The Astronomical JournalAnd the space acta And the Scientific reports (Opens in a new tab).
As VASCO continues, the project is looking to improve its methods, including by enhancing the artificial intelligence the project uses and collecting infrared and optical images of some of its “most interesting candidates.”
Hicham El Karkouri, an astrophysicist at the CERIST Research Institute in Algeria and a co-author on the paper, “Being part of the VASCO citizen science project helps a person learn more, develop new skills, and practice scientific research as a real scientist,” he told Space.com in an email. “The results we may find from the citizen science project could even lead to some big and amazing new discoveries that anyone would like to make their name a part of, so I encourage everyone to join the VASCO citizen science project.”