Title and Abstract

Title:  Citizen Science Contributions to Solar-Terrestrial Physics

Abstract:   At the Kilkenny Irish Pub in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in January 2016, Prof. Eric Donovan of the University of Calgary met with members of the Alberta Auroral Chasers, an amateur group of auroral photographers, and was presented with images of what they described as a “proton arc”.  The optical phenomena they showed him was a dim, mauve colored arc which appeared occasionally during auroral displays and acted “differently” than the other auroral forms.  Compelled by the image Prof. Donovan told the photographers “That’s not a proton arc.  I don’t know what that is.  You should call it something else.”  The group resolved to use a placeholder name - “Steve”, until the phenomenon could be properly identified.  This brief and informal interaction set-off a well-publicized, compelling, and productive line of research in ionosphere-thermosphere physics involving dozens of citizens and traditional scientists that continues to this day.  “Steve” is now known as STEVE (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement). Its discovery is a clear example of the potential for significant scientific advancements from citizen science observations.

Interactions between members of the “citizen” and “traditional” science communities are not new in solar-terrestrial physics, but they appear to have become more commonplace in the past decade.  Accordingly, funding agencies including the NSF and NASA have introduced new policies and funding opportunities designed to foster and leverage citizen science activities.  In this presentation, recent scientific results based on interactions with the amateur auroral photographer and amateur radio communities will be presented.  Two separate optical phenomena: STEVE and “the dunes” will be presented and discussed in detail, along with results from radio science experiments conducted using amateur radio transmissions as a signals-of-opportunity.  The objective of this talk is to make the case that citizen science is a legitimate and powerful component of solar-terrestrial physics.