Calling all citizen scientists! Lunar photos needed for climate research.

Climate Change / Science

New moon illuminated by light from the EarthAn old friend of mine, Peter Thejll, a senior scientist with the Danish Meteorological Institute, is asking for help on a project (#NewMoonSnap) that will help to measure the reflectivity of the Earth (its albedo). The observations will be used to improve our present climate models. This project is being done along with a research program being undertaken by a Danish astronaut who is presently on the ISS.

You can read more about the project here.

What is needed are good pictures of the new moon taken in RAW format. (Details and how to do that at the link above). You can find out when the next New Moon will be (and when it will rise and set as well) at this handy site.

It’s important to use the RAW or NEF formats – JPEG images are compressed to save disk space and the data won’t be suitable for this project.

If you can get a suitable image post it to social media with the tag #NewMoonSnap. If the image will work for the project, the researchers will contact you to get the original image. (When you post something online it’s ALWAYS compressed, and useless for this sort of work.)

There’s some interesting science behind all of this. We’ve measured the Earth’s albedo for years by measuring “Earthshine” on the Moon’s surface. But that measurement is noisy since it’s taken through the Earth’s atmosphere. Taking pictures from space and from the Earth at the same time will help to “calibrate” the historic Earth based observations an improve the accuracy of climate models – and improve our understanding of what climate change might do as the atmosphere heats up.

Peter Thejll explained it to me thusly:

The first 20 years of data collected have shown that [the] Earth has been getting darker, and that this corroborates what the satellites see! Darker = Warmer! But – and this is important – that is just a qualitative argument. We do not really know if the darkening is the cause or a consequence of climate change. Some climate scientists will experience different mileage on this question, but many have not really considered the causes and consequences of the globe’s darkening, yet.

Briefly – one reason for the darkening could be that mankind learned not to use so much dirty coal and oil in the last 20 years – the amount of sulphur aerosol has been reduced, or so it is thought. It is like a geo-enginneering experiment that was un-planned!

Your pictures could really help push this forward. Thanks!

(If you have questions, ask them in the comments here on the blog and I’ll either ask Peter to answer them, or try to myself.)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...