The Project, App, and Citizen Science Observing Events

CitizenSkyView is an app for iOS and Android that allows anyone with a smartphone to participate in crowdsourced image data gathering. It was designed by the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Technology to help gather data for NASA cloud and solar energy forecasting science.

Simply download the app to your phone from either the Google Play Store or iTunes, and join our Twitter feed. 

On the day of a data collection event let us know you are interested and available for participation. Grab a lunch provided by us and spend the duration of the event (about an hour or two) at a park or yard somewhere in the Boulder area.

If you are joining us for the first time, we do have an orientation and mini training session on campus in Boulder so feel free to reach out to one of the researchers and let us know you would like to attend.  Our collaborators from NCAR are happy to go over the calibration steps required to make sure your camera is taking pictures with the appriopriate resolution and our staff in the CET will be happy to help you with any other questions about our project.

On the day of the event we will have recommended spots in the Boulder valley for you to participate.  Just before the event starts, place your phone down level on its screen and leave the rest to us. The app is designed to take pictures of the sky every thirty seconds and then upload them to our server.

The images gathered from these events will be stitched together to provide a high-resolution picture of clouds as they move across the sky. NASA, CU and NCAR scientists then use this data to help further climate research by understanding the extent and structure of clouds as well as to support cloud forecasting studies being performed to help develop renewable solar energy infrastructure.

Figure 1. December mobile event overview with cloud images

Your involvement in these events is a great way to support scientific research and renewable energy development.

What is CitizenSkyView?

CitizenSkyView is an app for Apple iOS and Android phones that lets anyone partake in citizen science cloud data collection for NASA, CU, and NCAR.

How does it work?

Simply download the CitizenSkyView app from the App Store or Google Play and join a cloud observation event. On the day of the event, simply open the app, click on the upcoming event, and set your phone on its screen so the camera faces the sky. When the event starts, the app automatically takes picture every thirty seconds and uploads it to a CU storage site on the internet.

Why do scientists need pictures of clouds?

Simply put, cloud data is important to further climate research and supports renewable energy infrastructure development.

More technically, the spatial structure, distribution, motion, and growth of clouds all have a great impact on the radiative balance of the planet, and observing them only from NASA’s satellites does not provide all of the information needed to understand these effects. Observing clouds over a broad area (roughly the size of the City of Boulder or larger) provides a new perspective that will permit 3D modelling of clouds and improved calculation of both their radiating effects and their impact on weather and climate.

Also, the widespread generation of electricity using solar photovoltaic panels requires that the energy generated be added to the power grid in a controlled manner so that ramp-downs in energy generation caused by cloud shadows do not destabilize the power grid. Observing the cloud field over a broad area provides data that is needed to understand how cloud shadows and their associated changes in solar energy generation can be better predicted, and thus better managed for a more reliable and environmentally clean power grid.

Scientists can use these images to create high resolution data of clouds as they form and move across the sky. CitizenSkyView allows for a large section of the sky to be photographed with the high definition of your Android or iPhone. Similarly, the synchronized thirty second capture provides high temporal resolution and simultaneous images by everyone participating.

What will happen during a CitizenSkyView Event?

A collection of sky images from each participant’s phone will be collected and stitched together providing scientists with valuable data on cloud structure and movement for weather and climate research and renewable energy forecasting.

CitizenSkyView will host events on weekends in late Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 during which anyone with the app can take their smartphone and a lunch (provided by us) to a nearby park or yard somewhere in Boulder. When the event is about to start, simply run the app, place your phone down on a level surface on its screen, and let us use your camera to take pictures of the sky. During the event you’ll have a free hour to enjoy your surroundings, talk to a friend or catch up on your reading, and have lunch!

The CitizenSkyView app only takes photos during an event and when it is run, and only the photos taken by the app are downloaded for study. The app has been reviewed and approved for security and interoperability by the CU Office of Information Technology and Apple App Store, and is available to be downloaded from the Apple App Store for IOS 10.3 and higher or the Google Play Store for the Android OS version 6.0 or higher at no cost.

Organizational Meetings and Springl 2018 Events

Teleconference and contact information for meetings

Citizen Sky View organizational meetings will be held to help get everyone who wishes to participate in an event organized. The meetings will focus on the project goals, operation of the app, and event logistics such as site locations, timing, and “go/no-go” information. Getting everyone up to speed on how to participate will be the primary goal. The meetings will be held on Thursday evenings on the CU campus, and a telecon number will be provided for those who can’t attend in person to call in.

Each organizational meeting will precede an observing event the following Saturday afternoon. A sack lunch will be provided to all those participating before each Saturday event at a pre-event meeting at CU in the morning at 11 AM. The observing event will occur from 1-2 PM with each participant at their pre-assigned location in Boulder. A post-event discussion with refreshments will be held at CU after each event at 3 PM.

No previous scientific or meteorological experience is necessary to participate, only the interest in being part of a citizen science project. Organizational meetings and events are as follows:

Next Organizational Meeting: TBD

Observing Event: (Spring 2018 in planning)

  • Pre-Event in the Engineering Center location TBD from 11:00 AM – noon. Sack lunches provided.
  • Observing from 1-2 PM at assigned locations in the Boulder area
  • Post-Event in the Engineering Center location TBD from 3:00-4:00 PM. Light refreshments provided.


A protocol using e-mail and twitter will be used to call off an observing event in the case of poor weather conditions.


If you are interested in participating please either attend one of our organizational meetings, or send your e-mail address to Robert Davis at so to get on the participant roster. Telecon information for the meetings is attached.

We look forward to your participation in NASA Citizen Science!