Many are familiar with the concept of citizen science: opportunities for amateurs to play a role in helping researchers gather or process scientific data. That could involve a backyard bird count, or the use of a home computer to sift through terrabytes of data.
Our astronomy contributor Jean Creighton says there are various levels of citizen science that connect with her field. At a time when many federal scientists are worried about the future of their data, Creighton says there are many different ways to access information and images - such as from the Hubble Space Telescope.
"I would argue that the Hubble Site archive is probably most useful to the general public, because it's organized both in what's new... but there's also a gallery that you can browse. That's where all the pictures are, and you don't need to know what you're asking for," says Creighton.
There are several other ways to get involved with citizen science. Creighton mentions Galaxy Zoo, specifically, but there are many other organizations including Planet Hunters, the Andromedia Project, and Star Date: M83.