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Project asks public to help find light pollution in space images

If you’re looking for a way to help experts make an impact on our planet, the ESA has pointed toward Lost at Night, a project that needs the public’s help identifying areas of light pollution captured in images taken from space. The project intends to raise light pollution awareness, and it is now asking the public to help researchers in this field by cataloging the images.

As great as artificial intelligence may be, the technology is still lacking when it comes to identifying certain types of content in images. One area where algorithms struggle is nighttime photography that features brightly light landscapes, namely the images captured by astronauts from the International Space Staton.

NASA offers a huge library of free images called Astronaut Photography of Earth, which is exactly what it sounds like: an archive of Earth images captured by cameras on the ISS. Though some of the images in this archive are properly cataloged, many simply exist without any details about things like the location of Earth featured in the photo.

That’s where the Lost at Night project hopes the public can intervene. By manually reviewing and cataloging these images, people can help experts who are studying light pollution around the world.

The project’s interface presents users with a ‘problem’ image, which is an image showing bright lights on Earth at night without any location information. Using the tools available, the public is asked to figure out where this location is and submit the data. No single person will be able to get through the hundreds of thousands of images NASA offers, but by working together, the project hopes to generate a sizable database of cataloged light pollution images.

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