Friday, January 16, 2009

Citizen Science At Its Best

For those who have always wanted to travel to space and feel somewhat let down by the previous generation, who went to the moon and then stopped, Galaxy Zoo is for you. It's an online catalogue of the best images that were taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), made available to the public. A group of astronomers in the UK came up with this crazy idea to get web surfers to help them catalog these images so they could actually start doing real science with them. In many cases, the participants in Galaxy Zoo were the first people ever to have looked at these galaxies. The first iteration of the website is "done", so to speak. The galaxies there have gotten a total of millions of clicks and papers are being published. Which is cool enough all on its own, in my opinion.

What makes it cooler is that there's going to be another round of classification of the absolute best of the best images from the SDSS, asking the participants to go into even more detail in their classifications.

But it gets even cooler. The group that put Galaxy Zoo together has been astounded by the response they received from Joe Armchair Scientist and have offered to allow other science groups out there with more data than they can classify use of the engine the GZ Team developed. I'm not sure how interested I am in looking at hundreds of photos of elephants, for instance, but I'm sure there's someone out there who is!

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