If you’re going to put your name in lights, you might as well go big; REALLY big. And with millions of galaxies forming all sorts of shapes including letters, numbers and punctuation, GalaxyZoo has created a way for you to do just that.
More than 250,000 people, sorting through about a million images, have taken part in the Galaxy Zoo project since its launch in 2007. “Their findings have ranged from the scientifically exciting to the weird and wonderful,” says the Galaxy Zoo team. And among the weird, the Zooites – that’s what project volunteers call themselves – have found an alphabet of galaxies.
The new “font,” available for anyone to use, is a way to thank all the Zooites for their hard work. But now a new challenge awaits.
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Starting today, the Galaxy Zoo now has more than 250,000 new images of galaxies, most of which have never been seen by humans…. and the GZ team really wants them to be seen by humans!
But first, the reward:
Galaxy Zoo team member Dr. Steven Bamford, of the University of Nottingham, created the website at http://www.mygalaxies.co.uk allowing users to create a message in stars.
“We’d like to thank all those that have taken part in Galaxy Zoo in the past five years. Humans are better than computers at pattern recognition tasks like this, and we couldn’t have got so far without everyone’s help,” says Galaxy Zoo principal investigator Dr. Chris Lintott from the University of Oxford, in a press release. “Now we’ve got a new challenge, and we’d like to encourage volunteers old and new to get involved. You don’t have to be an expert — in fact we’ve found not being an expert tends to make you better at this task. There are too many images for us to inspect ourselves, but by asking hundreds of thousands of people to help us we can find out what’s lurking in the data.”
“The two sources of data work together perfectly: the new images from Sloan give us our most detailed view of the local universe, while the CANDELS survey from the Hubble telescope allows us to look deeper into the universe’s past than ever before,” says Astronomer and Galaxy Zoo team member Kevin Schawinski from ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
Team members are quick to point out, however, that the quirky nature of the galactic alphabet is not the focus of Galaxy Zoo. Finding unusual galaxies that resemble animals and letters help scientists learn about galaxy interactions as well as the formation and evolution of the biggest structures in the Universe.
About the author:John Williams is owner of TerraZoom, a Colorado-based web development shop specializing in web mapping and online image zooms. He also writes the award-winning blog, StarryCritters, an interactive site devoted to looking at images from NASA’s Great Observatories and other sources in a different way. A former contributing editor for Final Frontier, his work has appeared in the Planetary Society Blog, Air & Space Smithsonian, Astronomy, Earth, MX Developer’s Journal, The Kansas City Star and many other newspapers and magazines.