STARS: Science Through Astronomical Research of Stars (Citizen Sky)
The 2009 International Year of Astronomy coincides with the dimming and brightening of a variable star that can be seen with the naked eye. The American Association of Variable Star Observers and the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum are organizing a new citizen program called STARS (Science Through Astronomical Research) that engages 8,000 amateur astronomers and non-astronomers in measuring brightness changes in the star Epsilon Aurigae, analyzing their observational data, and developing and testing their own explanatory hypotheses. The goals of the project are to increase public understanding of science by involving citizens in active research on an accessible, yet enigmatic astronomical phenomenon, and disseminate lessons learned to other citizen science programs. A mixed methods evaluation study is monitoring the implementation and impact of the program. The project should (1) increase the number of non-astronomers who take up astronomy as a hobby, (2) increase the number of amateur astronomers who participate in other citizen science-related astronomical activities (for example, sky surveys), and (3) increase the number of non-science oriented citizens who become more interested in science. A research study is investigating how a large-scale informal citizen science project changes public understanding of scientific inquiry.
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