Galaxy Zoo 2
Back in 2007, a project called “Galaxy Zoo” was created. The idea was fairly simple – volunteers would be shown a picture of a random galaxy from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) and would have to classify the galaxy (either spiral or elliptical).
The SDSS is a vast observational survey – over a million galaxies were included in the catalog and, by using volunteers, it was hoped that the collection of galaxy images could be evaluated in about two years. But Galaxy Zoo proved to be so popular that those galaxies were looked at almost fifty times over in just one year. Computers can’t do the work well (finding it difficult to properly classify galaxies) and there are too many galaxies for just a few astronomers, but the community of volunteers made short work of the task!
In fact, the popularity of Galaxy Zoo has given rise to a sequel – Galaxy Zoo 2. This time, instead of just deciding if a galaxy is a spiral or an elliptical, there are multiple questions for each galaxy. This allows the galaxy to be described and analysed more completely, which leads to even more science to be done.
If you want to volunteer to help, you’ll have the opportunity to study lots of pretty pictures of galaxies all day long, while actually helping professional astronomers do some real scientific research. If it sounds like fun, go to the Galaxy Zoo homepage, read about its history and how you can help, and then go for it. Even if you only have a few minutes once in a while, even small contribution helps. And there is always the chance you might even discover something new and unexpected! It happened in the first Galaxy Zoo, so there’s every reason to think it can happen again.
Dr Chris Lintott, one of the researchers involved with the project, will be coming to NEAS next year to give a lecture on the subject.