It is led by Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel of Complutense University of Madrid, in collaboration with Sherbrooke CEGEP, NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, as well as various other institutions and collectives.
The project provided researchers with a tool to upload data into the Crowdcrafting platform and ask volunteers to complete a series of tasks to help interpret it. This allowed the team to efficiently analyse a huge data set.
NASA holds over 1.2 million high resolution, colour photographs taken from the ISS. Researchers aim to assign real-world coordinates to images of cities at night in order to assess levels of light pollution.
Scifabric created Dark Skies, the first Cities at Night project, and advised on the development of the follow-up projects Lost at Night and Night Cities ISS. Each project has a neat tutorial providing a step-by-step guide on how volunteers may complete tasks – no prior experience necessary. SciFabric provides full time support and maintenance of all three projects.
This project solves a classic image pattern recognition problem, where the volunteers identify objects that algorithms cannot. Identifying stars, cities at night and auroras borealis is complex for computers but people can do it at a glance. The prototype of this project was created in under an hour, proving how straight forward Crowdcrafting is to use.
On recognising a particular city in an image – perhaps by its shape, notable features or using local knowledge – contributors record the city's location on a world map. This illustrates how PyBossa software may be used for geolocation.
Volunteers help to match city features in the photograph with the same features shown on a web-based map. The longitude and latitude of each features is recorded. Advanced web-mapping techniques, such as superimposing images on web-based maps and image rotation, are used to facilitate accurate georeferencing of the image.
Georeferenced images are used to measure, monitor, compare and contrast light emitted by cities. This information may be fed to governments to encourage reductions in light pollution.
Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel
Researcher at Universidad Complutense de Madrid
It has allowed us to launch several citizen science projects with very few resources and little effort. The platform is flexible enough to use templates or create custom applications. It was a solution that allowed us to only worry about science and no other technical or non scientific issues.
In addition, the team has always been involved and available to give advice and maintain uninterrupted service."