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Jul. 08, 2011

Albedo Project Results Are In!

by Lisa Gardiner

Just a photo of a piece of paper? No, this is data!

Did you take a photo of white paper on the ground June 21 for the Albedo Project?

Whether or not you participated, you can now take a look at the data at the Albedo Project Web site. Locations of all the photos are shown on a Google Map. Zoom in to find your data point. And if you’d like to peruse the photos of white paper, you can find them in Flickr.

Photos were sent in from over 30 US states and 11 countries, pointing out that projects like this would not happen without participation by photo-snapping volunteers!

This is “not bad for a first effort,” according to the web site. However, the resulting albedo calculated from the photos is not very accurate. Here's the results summary from the Albedo Project Web site:

“The average albedo for all samples is 0.11 - That's pretty low, but when you look at the images, you can see that it makes sense. Some of those photos are dark, and they were not adjusted in any manner. (The average albedo for Earth is about 0.3)”

Why is the number so low? The photos did not provide a full representation of the Earth’s surface. About half of the photos were taken on grass, about a third were on concrete or brick, and most of the others were on soil or sand.

Dr. Kathy Gorski, project organizer and high school science teacher, hopes that the next Albedo Project event (August 5, 2011 - Save the date!) will get more people involved and produce a more accurate measurement. She will also be adding more detail to the Web site about the related science as well as resources for educators and is considering the methods to use for future Albedo Project events.

And for those of you that just realized you still have a photo of white paper sitting in your camera, don’t worry. It’s not to late to send it to the Albedo Project at albedo.project@gmail.com.

This post also appears on the Science for Citizens blog.

About Lisa Gardiner

Dr. Lisa Gardiner is a writer and content creator at Spark: Science Education at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. She likes how citizen science and social media get people involved in science and is a contributing editor at SciStarter.com.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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