Citizen science has been emerging for several years as a way for non-professional enthusiasts to help monitor and record real-world data for researchers.

From bioblitzes to sample collection to simple field observations, members of the public, regardless of age and background, can be instrumental in contributing the volume of data sometimes required for scientific studies.

Now the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS), a NASA-funded project based at the University of Arizona, has created an online portal that allows interested members of the public to help comb through recorded observations to identify asteroids.

To get started, interested citizen scientists can create an account through an online portal at A tutorial walk-through on the site gives users a primer on what they’ll be looking for to help discover new asteroids.

Asteroids are ‘discovered’ through a process called detectionCSS’s softwawre identifies moving points of light in recorded observations of the night sky. It’s up to participants to watch this recorded footage with attention to the type of motion, and whether or not the object’s brightness changes. Participants then can assess whether the detected object is possibly an asteroid, or if it’s likely a star or an instance of artifacting on the screen.

If you’re nervous about messing up, CSS director Eric Christensen says that’s not a big concernit’s all part of the scientific process.

“With enough people participating, you can establish a general consensus, so there’s less margin of error.” Christensen said.

In the last 30 years, CSS has discovered about 14,400 asteroids considered ‘near-Earth objects’that is, asteroids that in orbits that bring them in relatively close proximity to the orbit of the Earth. There are currently about 32,000 known near-earth objects, which means about half of them were discovered by CSS.

“The observations made by these citizen scientists may not always be of a never-before-detected object,” Christensen said. “But they may still be key observations that allow the Minor Planet Center to nail down the identity of something that, until now, was just a candidate.”

CSS says continued study and identification of asteroids can help researchers understand the makeup of the Solar System.