Epic Astronomy Hang-Out

CosmoQuest, the citizen science project to map craters, is hosting an epic hang-out marathon fundraiser this weekend. Their objective is to raise $295,200 to develop more citizen science software, and they've recruited some astronomy-celebrities to help them out.

Why does a research project at a university need your money? As they say in the fundraising announcement:

As you may have noticed, the funding opportunities for science, astronomy, planetary science, and science education have not been ideal in the past year or so. Though we work hard to bring in grants that support the research, site development, maintenance, education, and outreach activities here, private donations are also essential to keep the project and the community thriving.

The costs of doing science mostly come down to paying people to spend their time on the backbone of the project. Here's a full breakdown of the intended spending, from full-time staff and part-time students to maintaining equipment. Considering that CosmoQuest has proven that volunteers produce high-quality, consistent results on par with experienced experts, their system is a really good way to take all those gorgeous space-images we have an turn them into quantified scientific data.

The hang-out schedule contains the names of astronomers both well-known and more obscure. Dr. Pamela Gay is a regular public-scientist at popular culture conventions, as well as one of the driving forces behind CosmoQuest. She's kicking off Hour 1 right now, as well as reappearing periodically throughout the program. The Bad Astronomer Phil Plait and the new actresses-for-science group Scirens will be holding down the hang-out at hour 5. And it just keeps going and going after that, all the way through hour 36 late Sunday night.

While you're watching the hang-outs, you can always pull up another window and start counting craters on the Moon, Mercury, or Vesta. You can also join the hang-out on Google Plus, contributing your own questions about astronomy. (If that link dies over the day, it is advertised in the video annotation.)

Hey, do you want to see what Vesta looks like from Mars? And did you hear that the 1970s spacecraft that stole your lunch money now has over $40,000?