Not everyone can be a professional scientist, but citizen scientists continue to contribute.
“An international network of amateur astronomers has spotted what looks like two plumes, or slender, cloudy projections, extending from the surface of Mars, and their professional counterparts have no clear idea of what they might be.” NatGeo
A lawyer in Pennsylvania first spotted the odd plume in 2012. As a member of the ALPO astronomy group, he alerted others who confirmed his sighting. Amateurs in Australia and France spotted the plume, too.
Professional astronomers appreciate the help. “Skilled amateurs often pick up celestial phenomena the pros might miss. Amateurs have been the first to see some supernovae and comets.”
The mysterious plume rose 200 km, well over 100 miles, above the Martian surface. Orbiting spacecraft may have recorded the phenomenon – it will take time to look through all the data. Comments on the article show a lot of interest, with suggested causes from asteroid impacts to static electricity in storms. Amateurs will keep their telescopes on the planet and I expect we’ll learn more.
“We welcome and provide services for all individuals interested in lunar and planetary astronomy. For the novice observer, the ALPO is a place to learn and to enhance observational techniques. For the advanced amateur astronomer, it is a place where one’s work will count. For the professional astronomer, it is a resource where group studies or systematic observing patrols add to the advancement of astronomy.” ALPO astronomy group
Whether you prefer the cosmos or a local beetle, remember, as Isaac Asimov said, the most exciting phrase in science isn’t “eureka,” but “that’s funny…”