RAD@home Astronomy Collaboratory is the first Indian citizen-science research programme in astronomy. This zero-funded, zero-infrastructure collaboratory has been established as a platform wherein Any BE/BSc undergraduate/graduate Can Do serious multiwavelength, extragalactic astronomy research ( #ABCDresearch ) by utilizing the power of Internet, particularly the widely used social networking site: Facebook.
RAD@home was founded in 2013 by Dr. Ananda Hota with the motive of gathering the unlimited potential of a network of STEM undergraduates/graduates of India and then forming a research group, that will help in catering to the rising big data problem in astronomy with mega telescope projects like uGMRT, SKA, TMT etc. Being committed to the Indian constitutional mandate of equal opportunity to all, the group’s PAN-India model has so far given 100 science-educated individuals-belonging to different socio-economic background-an opportunity to utilize the data from mainly GMRT and other freely available archival data (all sky surveys in radio, infrared, optical and UV) to work on understanding black hole-galaxy co-evolution. This people-powered research has also received significant support from various Indian institutions such as Vigyan Prasar (DST Govt. of India), UM-DAE Center of Excellence in Basic Sciences (Mumbai), Institute of Physics (Bhubaneswar), Nehru Planetarium (New Delhi), and Harish-Chandra Research Institute (Allahabad) etc.
What is #ABCDResearch approach ?
#ABCDresearch stands for Any BSc/BE Can Do research using GMRT sitting @home Anywhere in India by joining RAD@home collaboratory for free. The collaboratory has a novel approach of training the citizens to get them ready for the research scene. It has implemented in-person training, online/remote training of the participants, and has stimulated peer learning. Thus, first through one-week RAD@home Discovery Camps (RDC), suitable candidates are trained via one-on-one interaction with professional astronomers. Having learnt the basic concepts, analysis tools and techniques and having understood the research interests of the collaboratory, these participants or trained citizen-scientists become e-astronomers and continue to learn, discover, and contribute through biweekly Facebook e-class, e-research sessions conducted by the principal investigator (PI) of the collaboratory.
Hence, regardless of their socio-economic setting, interested and scientifically sound STEM individuals, who have access to the Internet, can not only discover but also be a part of analyses, telescope proposal submission, and eventually in publications as a co-author.
What is RAD@home Discovery Camp?
The process of growing into a trained citizen scientist or e-astronomer starts from being “RGB qualified” - a science-educated individual capable of creating and analyzing false color, Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images of different galaxies using the NASA SkyView Virtual Observatory. The images are posted on the Facebook group, by following the pinned post, with a peer analysis of the galaxy. The senior members and peers will interact with the newly joined individual regarding their analyses and inferences.
The candidates who efficiently analyze and infer are selected by a team of senior e-astronomers and principal investigator for the “Discovery Camps” held at different locations in India. These Camps are held courtesy to various educational and research institutions across India that support RAD@home like Vigyan Prasar (DST Govt. of India), UM-DAE Center of Excellence in Basic Sciences (Mumbai), Institute of Physics (Bhubaneswar), Nehru Planetarium (New Delhi), and Harish-Chandra Research Institute (Allahabad) etc. . These institutions not only host the training camp, but also provide support like accomodation, food, travel etc., because of their belief in citizen science research and RAD@home.
In a discovery-camp, the candidate will be on a six-day research training session. In those six days, the candidate will be in the quest for exotic black hole-galaxy systems which will be a perfect opportunity to learn and interact with different people, from various fields of education, for a collective and collaborative effort in fulfilling the objectives of the project. During the camp participants are given exposure to various aspects of radio astronomy. They are taught about different morphologies and types of radio galaxies, along with hands-on work with TGSS ADR1/DR5 files from GMRT. Structurally faint, fuzzy, and interesting objects are further analyzed using SAO DS9 , NASA’s Skyview and NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database.
The research training sessions are carried out in a way that the candidates are made to be acquainted with the objectives of the project with few concepts of radio astronomy. These discovery camps are hosted and supported by planetariums and various Indian institutions by providing the facilities to candidates in making the camp successful.
The only technical requirement for the participants in a discovery-camp is an internet-enabled laptop/personal computer installed with SAO DS9 (platform independent).
What is an e class?
After successfully completing training in a six-day Discovery camp, participants are now trained-citizen-scientists or called e-astronomers and they take on larger role in the collaboratory. They continue to learn from home and continue to discover cosmic souces from GMRT data through participation in the e-class e-research sessions on line. To this end, the e-class is one of the most essential components of RAD@home as it helps in driving forward the collaboratory's mandate of large-scale and internet-based research. This e-class e-research or discussion/training session-held on Facebook live-chat-is organized by the principal investigator and/or a collaborator, senior e-astronomer. The purpose of an e-class is to learn basic concepts of radio astronomy, black hole-galaxy evolution, facilitate discussion among the members that can range from and is not limited to investigating a new-found source, planning future RAD@home events, getting educated on new theoretical concepts and investigation methods, attempting specific research tasks, discussion on new discoveries and breakthroughs around the world and sharing information from relevant sources.
For continuous learning, it is necessary for e-astronomers to attend the 3 hr/week e-classes (split in two sessions spanning 1 hour on Thursday evenings and 2 hours on Saturdays). The attending members are required to fill an attendance sheet in Google forms which is archived with the PI for future references.
Thus, irrespective of proximity to a astronomy research institution, any citizen with undergraduate science education can take part in astronomy research sitting @home for free and that too using the largest radio telescope of its kind GMRT, pride of India. RAD@home welcomes every citizen to either take part in research and request all private/govt institutions to help spread citizen-science research.
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