The CosmoQuest Moon Mappers Community Science Project: The Effect of Incidence Angle on the Lunar Surface Crater Distribution
The CosmoQuest virtual community science platform facilitates the creation and implementation of astronomical research projects performed by citizen scientists. One such project, called Moon Mappers, aids in determining the feasibility of producing crowd-sourced cratering statistics of the surface of the Moon. Lunar crater population statistics are an important metric used to understand the formation and evolutionary history of lunar surface features, to estimate relative and absolute model ages of regions on the Moon’s surface, and to establish chronologies for other planetary surfaces via extrapolation from the lunar record. It has been suggested and shown that solar incidence angle has an effect on the identification of craters, particularly at meter scales. We have used high-resolution image data taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Narrow-Angle Camera of the Apollo 15 landing site over a range of solar incidence angles and have compiled catalogs of crater identifications obtained by minimally trained members of the general public participating in CosmoQuest’s Moon Mappers project. We have studied the effects of solar incidence angle spanning from approximately 27.5 deg to approximately 83 deg (extending the incidence angle range examined in previous works), down to a minimum crater size of 10 m, and find that the solar incidence angle has a significant effect on the crater identification process, as has been determined by subject matter experts in other studies. The results of this analysis not only highlight the ability to use crowd-sourced data in reproducing and validating scientific analyses but also indicate the potential to perform original research.