Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cosmo Quest Hangout-a-thon

Breaking my broadcast silence here to promote a good cause.

If you haven't heard, the recent budget cuts in the US have had some pretty devastating effects for the astronomy community. Perhaps the largest cut was the effective zeroing out of all of NASA's education and outreach programs pending review. This doesn't mean the programs are cancelled, but funding is temporarily suspended which basically leaves those that rely on that funding in a lurch until their programs are reviewed and their budgets reinstated, if they are at all. In the meantime, those that are dependent on this funding may have to find something else to do which would mean they might never come back.

One of the groups that is being especially hard hit is the CosmoQuest group led by Dr. Pamela Gay at SIUE. Even if you don't know CosmoQuest by name, if you're interested in the astronomy community or even astronomy in general, you have likely seen something they've been involved in.

In particular, CosmoQuest works very closely with the Zooniverse project. This project is an attempt to crowdsource data processing from many of Astronomy's biggest projects to make amazing discoveries. The most popular has been the Planet Hunters project which uses KEPLER data to allow users to search for planets and has been wildly successful. CosmoQuest has helped in shaping these programs and maintaining them, allowing ordinary people to directly access real astronomy. Although I'm not teaching right now, these are programs that I would love to bring into the classroom and I'd hate to see disappear.

Aside from these fantastic projects, CosmoQuest also helped organize the amazingly successful 365 Days of Astronomy, a series of daily podcasts that was originally produced for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, but was so successful that it's still going. The podcast has thousands of listeners and is only possible thanks to the full time work by the CosmoQuest team getting everything organized.

And it's all in danger.

Back in April, Pamela put a post in her blog detailing the crisis she's facing and pledging to try to find some other funding in the interim. This very real fear was echoed by one of her assistants, Nichole Gugliucci.

This weekend, they, along with many others, will be doing a donation drive. Instead of being done on TV, it will be broadcast live through Google's Hangouts on Air. It was originally slated for a 24 hour drive, but there has been such an outpouring of support from people that want to talk about the citizen science and other projects that CosmoQuest drives, that it has been extended to 32 hours of straight talks on these projects!

To watch is free, but as previously stated, the purpose is to raise funds to continue their work. So if you can, DONATE.

Remember, this isn't just a group that tells people about Astronomy. It's a group that allows people to get directly involved and do real science. Without your support, these amazing projects that have literally discovered new worlds may disappear.