Moon Zoo citizen science project: an exploration of the moon surface near Apollo 17 landing site

moon surface

Moon Zoo was a citizen science project to study the moon surface in unprecedented detail. In the project, volunteers come to identify craters (A crater is a very large hole in the ground. It is caused by something hitting it or by an exploration) and boulders in millions of images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

Moon Zoo was launched in May 2010 and wrapped up in June 2015. It has a tailored graphical interface to show the moon surface. The interface is also linked to education and public outreach material, such as a forum and blog.

Moon Zoo’s work focused on small craters (diameter < 500 m) near the Apollo 17 landing site. In a paper recently published in Icarus, researchers tested the accuracy of the work by comparing the results with experts’ observation.

All the Moon Zoo data including crater location and diameter were provided by 9321 citizen scientists. Researchers filtered the data to minimize influence from unreliable data (e.g., data provided by people who only use the Moon Zoo website once).

Experts’ observation was done by the first author of the paper to count craters for a region of 400 km2 around the Apollo 17 landing site. The validation showed 2607 craters, ranging in diameter from 29 to 1582 m.

After that, other 3 volunteer planetary researchers (1 undergraduate student, 1 postgraduate student, and 1 senior researcher) accessed the accuracy of validation. A subset region of 11.62 km2 was selected as the sample area for statistical analysis.

Generally, researchers found that after removing unreliable data, Moon Zoo crater data were consistent with the expert census. In addition, some statistical results like regolith (the layer of a loose materials covering the bedrock of the moon) depth were in line with other estimates for the Apollo 17 region.

The finding shows that the Moon Zoo project can provide valid information for scientific exploration. Further projects will provide user training, improve error analysis, and boost users’ involvement.

Citation: Bugiolacchi R, Bamford S, Tar P, Thacker N, Crawford IA, Joy KH, Grindrod PM, Lintott C. (2016). The Moon Zoo citizen science project: Preliminary results for the Apollo 17 landing site. Icarus, 271: 30-48. doi:
Figure legend: This image is derived from the cited article under CC-BY license.