Citizen Science

Citizen Science is a form of open collaboration in which individuals or organizations participate voluntarily in the scientific process. CS projects are science projects that rely on volunteers.

By engaging people throughout the country with software and technological tools, the Heliophysics Division (HPD) has a potentially transformative opportunity to solicit, receive, and track valuable data and other contributions from regional and lay scientists. Citizen Science is supported across the Science Mission Directorate and highlights contributions from citizen scientists to published papers.

Innovation Initiative for 2023-2024: A Big Year for Heliophysics Citizen Science

NASA is celebrating the Big Year as a broad public outreach campaign - find out more at

Heliophysics has a transformative opportunity between October 2023 and December 2024 when two solar eclipses will occur in North America near solar maximum and the Parker Solar Probe will make its closest approach to the Sun​. Throughout this time, the public can engage their curiosity in these natural phenomena as a coupled system of the Sun, Earth, and heliosphere. These extraordinary research opportunities, coinciding with the increase of reach and scale of citizen science, set the stage for a Big Year for Heliophysics in 2024.

The Heliophysics Big Year ties together these major Heliophysics events to maximize participation in a coordinated incentivized citizen science campaign. The campaign borrows from the birding Big Year concept where birders vow to see as many species as possible within a specific geographic area in a given year. The Heliophysics Big Year will challenge members of the public who want to embark on a personal quest to be curious about Heliophysics, participate in monthly activities, and do Heliophysics citizen science.

From young explorers to heliophysicists read below to see how you can engage with Heliophysics Big Year.

Join Us

Opportunities to Propose


Coming soon

  • Spotting Guide:  how you and your family can keep track of Heliophysics phenomena and track your participation during the Big Year
  • Solar Max campaign effort: how can citizen science and open science come together in a real-time campaign? Stay tuned to learn more about this partnering effort! (POC: Janet Kozyra)

Heliophysics Citizen Science Strategy

A chart of the mission for Citizen Science portfolio: grow, execute, innovate, communicate, optimize and partner.

The Citizen Science Strategy was created by the HPD Citizen Science Working Group. It enables the continuing growth and success of Citizen Science in lockstep with its growing importance inside the Heliophysics community.

Our vision is to leverage public participation in Heliophysics to help drive innovation and diversity in science, society, and education.

Our mission will be to build a robust, dynamic, and engaging Heliophysics citizen science portfolio that fuses natural phenomena, mission opportunities, and the power of people’s diverse viewpoints to fuel collective innovation.

Heliophysics Citizen Science Contact Information

To get more information about Heliophysics Citizen Science, you can contact a member of the the HPD Citizen Science Working Group. If you have tie-ins, activities or ideas you would like to suggest for the Heliophysics Big Year, email us.

Team members:

Heliophysics Citizen Science Investigations (H-CSI)
Citizen Science Seed Funding Program (CSSFP)
Chris Caisse
Ex Officio member
Michael Cook
Ex Officio member
Reiner Friedel
Ex Officio member

The Sun

The sun is a dynamic star, made of super-hot ionized gas called plasma.

The sun's surface and atmosphere change continually, driven by the magnetic forces generated by this constantly-moving plasma. The sun releases energy in two ways: the usual flow of light that illuminates the Earth and makes life possible; but also in more violent and dramatic ways--it gives off bursts of light, particles, and magnetic fields that can have ripple effects all the way out to the solar system's magnetic edge.

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Solar activity follows a roughly 11-year cycle. This composite image shows the sun in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths about once a year over the course of a complete solar cycle.


A magnetosphere is the region around a planet dominated by the planet's magnetic field.

Other planets in our solar system have magnetospheres, but Earth has the strongest one of all the rocky planets: Earth's magnetosphere is a vast, comet-shaped bubble, which has played a crucial role in our planet's habitability. Life on Earth initially developed and continues to be sustained under the protection of this magnetic environment.

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Earth is surrounded by a giant magnetic bubble called the magnetosphere, which is is part of a dynamic, interconnected system that responds to solar, planetary, and interstellar conditions.

Space Weather

Though space is about a thousand times emptier than even the best laboratory vacuums on Earth, it’s not completely devoid of matter.

The sun’s constant outflow of solar wind fills space with a thin and tenuous wash of particles, fields, and plasma. This solar wind, along with other solar events like giant explosions called coronal mass ejections, influences the very nature of space and can interact with the magnetic systems of Earth and other worlds. Such effects also change the radiation environment through which our spacecraft – and, one day, our astronauts headed to Mars – travel. 

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An artist's illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space.
An artist's illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space.