2015 BHERT Community Engagement Award Winner Fireballs in the Sky is a citizen science outreach program that involves the public in the research of the Desert Fireball Network. This Network aims to capture the paths of fireballs in the sky via observations from multiple viewpoints. From this, astronomers can understand the early workings of the solar system.
Students practicing with Fireballs in the Sky app. Photo by Brent Myers.
Fireballs in the Sky shares the excitement of this science with the worldwide community and extends the reach of the research by encouraging people to report fireball sightings through the Fireballs in the Sky app. With augmented reality, an intuitive interface and sensing technology of this smartphone app, anyone anywhere in the world can use their fireball sighting to contribute scientifically useful data.
Fireballs in the Sky was established in 2013, and has grown through the efforts of the researchers of the Desert Fireball Network, science communicators from Curtin Science Outreach, initial funding from the Australian Government’s Inspiring Australia initiative and app development partner ThoughtWorks.
Fireballs in the Sky was able to engage closely with a broad range of Australia’s community alongside the global uptake of the app. The Network developed resources to enhance STEM in classrooms, activities to showcase the science to the general public and a travelling exhibition to share the adventures of meteorite hunting in the outback.
At the time of the 2015 BHERT Outstanding Collaboration in Community Engagement Award, the app had been downloaded over 21,000 times in 88 countries.
Since then, the program received the 2015 Australian Information Industry Association’s National iAward for Education, the Premier’s Science Award for Chevron Science Engagement Initiative of the Year in Western Australia in 2016, and was the winner of the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science, from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.
By now (2017) there have been 30,000 app downloads in 90 countries and the program has reached over 100,000 West Australians through hands on activities, lectures and events across the state.
The program experienced another milestone, with citizen science reports correlating with the Desert Fireball Network observations of a fireball from Halloween in 2016. That data indicated the meteorite had landed on a farm in the Wheatbelt region of WA, prompting a rapid retrieval by the researchers with a pristine sample recovered for science to analyse.
The program is now being rolled out with NASA through its international collaboration with the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute [ SSERVI]. The Desert Fireball Network is expanding its camera capacity into other countries, becoming a Global Fireball Observatory.
To learn more or download the app, go to http://fireballsinthesky.com.au/
Follow the project on Twitter @FireballsSky, or on Facebook @Fireballsinthesky
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