Reminiscent of a telethon or a community fundraiser, Galaxy Zoo has challenged the public to complete one million classification clicks of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey during the 100 Hours of Astronomy. The clock started ticking at 12:00 GMT on Wednesday, April 1st, with the challenge ending at 16:00 GMT on Sunday April 5th. The Galaxy Zoo site even includes a thermometer-like gadget called the Zoonometer to provide up-to-the minute ticks on the number of clicks. If you have just returned from a cave on Mars and haven’t heard of Galaxy Zoo, or if you don’t know what the 100 Hours of Astronomy is about, keep reading. Otherwise, head on over to Galaxy Zoo and start clicking!
Galaxy Zoo was launched in July 2007, with a data set of a million galaxies, imaged with a robotic telescope, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. In order to understand how these galaxies formed, the idea was to get the public to help classify them according to their shapes. The human brain can do this task better than even the fastest computer. With so many galaxies, the team thought that it might take at least two years for visitors to the site to work through them all. Within 24 hours of launch, the site was receiving 70,000 classifications an hour, and more than 50 million classifications were received by the project during its first year, from almost 150,000 people. With the public’s help the Zoo team has published six papers from the findings, and have received viewing time with other, bigger telescopes to clarify the discoveries.
Zoo 2 launched a few months ago, and focuses on the nearest, brightest and most beautiful galaxies, and asks users to make more detailed classifications.
100 Hours of Astronomy is an event of the International Year of Astronomy that wants to get as many people as possible to look through a telescope – just as Galileo did 400 years ago. This four-day event encompasses astronomy clubs, groups, individuals, observatories, science centers and more around the world as they reach out to the public to achieve this common goal. There’s lots of great events, so check out Tammy’s article to find out more, or check out the 100 Hours of Astronomy website – but hurry – you’ve only got until Sunday April 5th to participate!