An old brick building on Harvard’s Observatory Hill is overflowing with rows of dark green cabinets — each one filled to the brim with hundreds of astronomical glass plates in paper sleeves: old-fashioned photographic negatives of the night sky.
All in all there are more than 500,000 plates preserving roughly a century of information about faint happenings across the celestial sphere. But they’re gathering dust. So the Harvard College Observatory is digitizing its famed collection of glass plates. One by one, each plate is placed on a scanner capable of measuring the position of each tiny speck to within 11 microns. The finished produce will lead to one million gigabytes of data.
But each plate must be linked to a telescope logbook — handwritten entries recording details like the date, time, exposure length, and location in the sky. Now, Harvard is seeking your help to transcribe these logbooks.
The initial project is called Digital Access to a Sky Century at Harvard (DASCH). Although it has been hard at work scanning roughly 400 plates per day, without the logbook entries to accompany each digitized plate, information about the brightness and position of each object would be lost. Whereas with that information it will be possible to see a 100-year light curve of any bright object within 15 degrees of the north galactic pole.
The century of data allows astronomers to detect slow variations over decades, something otherwise impossible in today’s recent digital era.
Assistant Curator David Sliski is especially excited about the potential overlap in our hunt for exoplanets. “It covers the Kepler field beautifully,” Sliski told Universe Today. It should also be completed by the time next-generation exoplanet missions (such as TESS, PLATO, and Kepler 2) come online — allowing astronomers to look for long-term variability in a host star that may potentially affect an exoplanet’s habitability.
There are more than 100 logbooks containing about 100,000 pages of text. Volunteers will type in a few numbers per line of text onto web-based forms. It’s a task impossible for any scanner since optical character recognition doesn’t work on these hand-written entries.
Harvard is partnering with the Smithsonian Transcription Center to recruit digital volunteers. The two will then be able to bring the historic documents to a new, global audience via the web. To participate in this new initiative, visit Smithsonian’s transcription site here.
What is it like to make contact with a 36-year old dormant spacecraft?
“The intellectual side of you systematically goes through all the procedures but you really end up doing a happy dance when it actually works,” Keith Cowing told Universe Today. Cowing, most notably from NASA Watch.com, and businessman Dennis Wingo are leading a group of volunteer engineers that are attempting to reboot the International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3) spacecraft after it has traveled 25 billion kilometers around the Solar System the past 30 years.
Its initial mission launched in 1978 to study Earth’s magnetosphere, and the spacecraft was later repurposed to study two comets. Now, on its final leg of a 30-plus year journey and heading back to the vicinity of Earth, the crowdfunding effort ISEE-3 Reboot has been working to reactivate the hibernating spacecraft since NASA wasn’t able to provide any funds to do so.
The team awakened the spacecraft by communicating from the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, using a donated transmitter. While most of the team has been in Puerto Rico, Cowing is back at home in the US manning the surge of media attention this unusual mission has brought.
Those at Arecibo are now methodically going through all the systems, figuring out what the spacecraft can and can’t do.
“We did determine the spin rate of spacecraft is slightly below what it should be,” Cowing said, “but the point there is that we’re now understanding the telemetry that we’re getting and its coming back crystal clear.”
For you tech-minded folks, the team determined the spacecraft is spinning at 19.16 rpm. “The mission specification is 19.75 +/- 0.2 rpm. We have also learned that the spacecraft’s attitude relative to the ecliptic is 90.71 degrees – the specification is 90 +/- 1.5 degrees. In addition, we are now receiving information from the spacecraft’s magnetometer,” Cowing wrote in an update on the website.
The next task will be looking at the propulsion system and making sure they can actually fire the engines for a trajectory correction maneuver (TCM), currently targeted for June 17.
One thing this TCM will do is to make sure the spacecraft doesn’t hit the Moon. Initial interactions with the ISEE-3 from Arecibo showed the spacecraft was not where the JPL ephemeris predicted it was going to be.
“That’s a bit troublesome because if you look at the error bars, it could hit Moon, or even the Earth, which is not good,” Cowing said, adding that they’ve since been able to refine the trajectory and found the ephemeris was not off as much as initially thought, and so such an impact is quite unlikely.
“However, it’s not been totally ruled out, — as NASA would say it’s a not a non-zero chance,” Cowing said. “The fact that it was not where it was supposed to be shows there were changes in its position. But assuming we can fire the engines when we want to, it shouldn’t be a problem. As it stands now, if we didn’t do anything, the chance of it hitting the Moon is not zero. But it’s not that likely.”
But the fact that the predicted location of the spacecraft is only off by less than 30,000 km is actually pretty amazing.
Consider this, the spacecraft has completed almost 27 orbits of the sun since the last trajectory maneuver. That is 24.87 billion kilometers. They are off course by less than 30,000 km. I can’t even come up with an analogy to how darn good that is!! That is almost 1 part in ten million accuracy! We need to confirm this with a DSN ranging, but if this holds, the fuel needed to accomplish the trajectory change is only about 5.8 meters/sec, or less than 10% of what we thought last week!
We truly stand on the shoulders of steely eyed missile men giants..
In 1982, NASA engineers at Goddard Space Flight Center, led by Robert Farquhar devised the maneuvers needed to send the spacecraft ISEE-3 out of the Earth-Moon system. It was renamed the International Cometary Explorer (ICE) to rendezvous with two comets – Giacobini-Zinner in 1985 and Comet Halley in 1986.
“Bob Farquhar and his team initially did it with pencils on the back of envelopes,” Cowing said, “so it is pretty amazing. And we’re really happy with the trajectory because we’ll need less fuel – we have 150 meters per second of fuel available, and we’ll only need about 6 meters per second of maneuvering, so that will give us a lot of margin to do the other things in terms of the final orbit, so we’re happy with that. But we have to fire the engines first before we pat ourselves on the back.”
And that’s where the biggest challenge of this amateur endeavor lies.
“The biggest challenge will be getting the engines to fire,” Cowing said. “The party’s over if we can’t get it to do that. The rest will be gravy. So that’s what we’re focusing on now.”
After the June 17 TCM, the next big date is August 10, when the team will attempt to put the spacecraft in Earth orbit and then resume its original mission that began back in 1978 – all made possible by volunteers and crowdfunding.
Astronomy is a discipline pursued at a distance. And yet, actually measuring that last word — distance — can be incredibly tricky, even if we set our sights as nearby as the Moon.
But now astronomers from the University of Antioquia, Colombia, have devised a clever method that allows citizen scientists to measure the Moon’s distance with only their digital camera and smartphone.
“Today a plethora of advanced and accessible technological devices such as smartphones, tablets, digital cameras and precise clocks, is opening a new door to the realm of ‘do-it-yourself-science’ and from there to the possibility of measuring the local Universe by oneself,” writes lead author Jorge Zuluaga in his recently submitted paper.
While ancient astronomers devised clever methods to measure the local Universe, it took nearly two millennia before we finally perfected the distance to the Moon. Now, we can bounce powerful lasers off the mirrors placed on the Lunar surface by the Apollo Astronauts. The amount of time it takes for the laser beam to return to Earth gives an incredibly precise measurement of the Moon’s distance, within a few centimeters.
But this modern technique is “far from the realm and technological capacities of amateur astronomers and nonscientist citizens,” writes Zuluaga. In order to bring the local Universe into the hands of citizen scientists, Zuluaga and colleagues have devised an easy method to measure the distance to the Moon.
The trick is in observing how the apparent size of the Moon changes with time.
While the Moon might seem larger, and therefore closer, when it’s on the horizon than when it’s in the sky — it’s actually the opposite. The distance from the Moon to any observer on Earth decreases as the Moon rises in the sky. It’s more distant when it’s on the horizon than when it’s at the Zenith. Note: the Moon’s distance to the center of the Earth remains approximately constant throughout the night.
The direct consequence of this is that the angular size of the moon is larger — by as much as 1.7 percent — when it’s at the Zenith than when it’s on the horizon. While this change is far too small for our eyes to detect, most modern personal cameras have now reached the resolution capable of capturing the difference.
So with a good camera, a smart phone and a little trig you can measure the distance to the Moon yourself. Here’s how:
1.) Step outside on a clear night when there’s a full Moon. Set your camera up on a tripod, pointing at the Moon.
2.) With every image of the Moon you’ll need to know the Moon’s approximate elevation. Most smartphones have various apps that allow you to measure the camera’s angle based on the tilt of the phone. By aligning the phone with the camera you can measure the elevation of the Moon accurately.
3.) For every image you’ll need to measure the apparent diameter of the Moon in pixels, seeing an increase as the Moon rises higher in the sky.
4.) Lastly, the Moon’s distance can be measured from only two images (of course the more images the better you beat down any error) using this relatively simple equation:
where d(t) is the distance from the Moon to your location on Earth, RE is the radius of the Earth, ht(t) is the elevation of the Moon for your second image, α(t)
is the relative apparent size of the Moon, or the apparent size of the Moon in your second image divided by the initial apparent size of the Moon in your first image and ht,0 is the initial elevation of the Moon for your first image.
So with a few pictures and a little math, you can measure the distance to the Moon.
“Our aim here is not to provide an improved measurement of a well-known astronomical quantity, but rather to demonstrate how the public could be engaged in scientific endeavors and how using simple instrumentation and readily available technological devices such as smartphones and digital cameras, any person can measure the local Universe as ancient astronomers did,” writes Zuluaga.
The paper has been submitted to the American Journal of Physics and is available for download here.
Zooniverse — the renowned home of citizen science projects — is now one million strong. That’s one million registered volunteers since the project began less than seven years ago.
It all began when Galaxy Zoo launched in July 2007. The initial response to this project was overwhelming. Since then the Zooniverse team has created almost 30 citizen science projects ranging from astronomy to zoology.
“We are constantly amazed by the effort that the community puts into our projects,” said the Zooniverse team in an email regarding the news late last week.
Many projects have produced unique scientific results, ranging from individual discoveries to classifications that rely on input from thousands of volunteers. As of today there are 60+ papers listed on the websites publications page, many of which have made the news.
In the first two weeks after Galaxy Zoo’s launch, registered citizen scientists classified more than a million galaxies. Each volunteer was presented with an image from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and asked to classifiy the galaxy as belonging to one of six categories: elliptical, clockwise spiral, anticlockwise spiral, edge-on, merger, or unsure.
But citizen scientists weren’t simply labeling galaxies, they were helping astronomers to answer crucial questions and raise new ones about our current understandings of galaxy evolution. One significant finding showed that bar-shaped features in spiral galaxies has doubled over the latter half of the history of the Universe. This confirms that bars signify maturity in spiral galaxies and play an important role in shutting down star formation.
Another finding downplayed the importance of collisions in forming supermassive black holes. Citizen scientists found 13 bulgeless galaxies — suggesting they had never experienced a major collision — with supermassive black holes, nonetheless. All healthy black holes, with masses at least millions of times that of the Sun, must have grown through less dramatic processes.
Planet Hunters — a citizen science project developed in 2010 — has also seen wide success. Ordinary citizens examine the Kepler Space Telescope’s light curves of stars and flag any slight dips in brightness that might indicate a planet crossing in front of the star. Many eyes examine each light curve, allowing some to cross check others.
In roughly three years, citizen scientists examined more than 19 million Kepler light curves. Contrary to what many astronomers expected, ordinary citizens were able to spot transiting objects that many computer algorithms missed.
In 2012, Planet Hunter volunteers, Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano discovered an exoplanet in a four-star system. The Neptune-size planet, labeled “Planet Hunters 1” (PH1), orbits its two parent stars every 138 days. A second pair of stars, approximately 90 billion miles away, are also gravitationally bound to the system. This wacky system was later confirmed by professional astronomers.
In 2013, Planet Hunter volunteers discovered yet another planet candidate, which, if confirmed, would make a known six-planet system really the first seven-planet system. The five innermost planets are smaller than Neptune, while the two outer planets are gas giants. All orbit within Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
These are only a few of Zooniverse’s citizen science projects. Others allow ordinary citizens to help analyze how whales communicate with one another, study the lives of the ancient Greeks, and even look at real life cancer data. So join today and become number one million and one.
Zooniverse is produced by the Citizen Science Alliance, which works with many academic and other partners worldwide.
The folks at Cosmoquest have released a cool new citizen science app for Android! “Earth or Not Earth” allows players to test their knowledge of Earth, as well as learn more about the fascinating geology of the rocky worlds in our solar system. You can also challenge your friends on Facebook to beat your scores, thanks to the Facebook integration feature.
“Earth or Not Earth” was developed by Southern Illinois University graduate student and Cosmoquest developer Joseph Moore. Moore designed “Earth or Not Earth,” and included two additional game features: “Matching” and “Pick 2.” The images used in “Earth or Not Earth” are public domain, and are sourced primarily from NASA planetary science missions, with more images to be added to the app in the future.
The app does cost $1.99 USD, and the Proceeds from “Earth or Not Earth” help fund the programmers at Cosmoquest, as well as citizen science programs, educational programs, and future mobile apps.
The user interface for “Earth or Not Earth” is pretty straightforward. After installing the app, the initial screen will prompt users to login with their Cosmoquest credentials (or create a new account). While some may see this as an annoyance, a Cosmoquest account allows access to many of the other citizen science projects Cosmoquest offers, such as Moon Mappers, Asteroid Mappers, and others.
After logging in, users are able to select one of several game-play options.
Players can start with the “Learn” section, which allows users to learn more about the rocky worlds in our solar system. Additionally, users can learn about geologic features such as craters, volcanism, fault lines, and even man-made surface alterations.
After learning about the processes that shape and alter rocky worlds in our solar system, users can test their knowledge with the “Earth or Not Earth”, “Matching”, or “Pick Two” mini-games.
“Earth or Not Earth” Displays images from various NASA planetary missions. The goal for the player is to determine if the image is of Earth, or Not. For those looking for a greater challenge, the “Matching” minigame provides an image that players must try to match to a rocky world, or a planetary geology process.
The most challenging mini-game in “Earth or Not Earth” is “Pick Two”, where players select two images that belong to the same world out of several shown on screen. With some images being in color, and others in black and white, players must rely on the knowledge gained from the “Learn” feature to make educated deductions about which images belong to which world.
Fans of planetary science will find “Earth or Not Earth” a challenging, yet entertaining and educational gaming experience. Gameplay is quick, and makes for a nice break between meetings, or something to pass the time while waiting to catch the bus.
Want to join the hunt for new galaxies? During a special G+ Hangout today, June 5, a team of astronomers will share how you can help them find faint and distant galaxies by joining a search they’ve called “Space Warps.” This is a new project from the Zooniverse. The team of astronomers will discuss gravitational lensing, a strange phenomenon that actually makes it possible for us to see a galaxy far away and otherwise hidden by clusters of galaxies in front of them. They will also answer your questions about their ongoing search for distant galaxies, what this reveals about the cosmos, and how astronomers are beginning to fill out our picture of the universe.
You can watch in the window below, and the webcast starts at 21:00 UTC (2:00 p.m. PDT, 5:00 pm EDT). You can take part in thise live Google+ Hangout, and have your questions answered by submitting them before or during the webcast. Email questions to [email protected]or send a message on Twitter with the hashtag #KavliAstro.
If you miss it live, you can watch the replay below, as well.
• ANUPREETA MORE is a co-Principal Investigator of Space Warps and a postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo.
• PHILIP MARSHALL is a researcher at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University and SLAC.
• ARFON SMITH is Director of Citizen Science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and Technical Lead of Zooniverse (www.zooniverse.org).
On May 28, 1971, the Soviet Union launched the Mars 3 mission which, like its previously-launched and ill-fated sibling Mars 2, consisted of an orbiter and lander destined for the Red Planet. Just over six months later on December 2, 1971, Mars 3 arrived at Mars — five days after Mars 2 crashed. The Mars 3 descent module separated from the orbiter and several hours later entered the Martian atmosphere, descending to the surface via a series of parachutes and retrorockets. (Sound familiar?) Once safely on the surface, the Mars 3 lander opened its four petal-shaped covers to release the 4.5-kg PROP-M rover contained inside… and after 20 seconds of transmission, fell silent. Due to unknown causes, the Mars 3 lander was never heard from or seen again.
The set of images above shows what might be hardware from the 1971 Soviet Mars 3 lander, seen in a pair of images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
While following news about Mars and NASA’s Curiosity rover, Russian citizen enthusiasts found four features in a five-year-old image from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that resemble four pieces of hardware from the Mars 3 mission: the parachute, heat shield, terminal retrorocket and lander. A follow-up image by the orbiter from last month shows the same features.
“Together, this set of features and their layout on the ground provide a remarkable match to what is expected from the Mars 3 landing, but alternative explanations for the features cannot be ruled out.”
– Alfred McEwen, HiRISE Principal Investigator
Vitali Egorov from St. Petersburg, Russia, heads the largest Russian Internet community about Curiosity. His subscribers did the preliminary search for Mars 3 via crowdsourcing. Egorov modeled what Mars 3 hardware pieces should look like in a HiRISE image, and the group carefully searched the many small features in this large image, finding what appear to be viable candidates in the southern part of the scene. Each candidate has a size and shape consistent with the expected hardware, and they are arranged on the surface as expected from the entry, descent and landing sequence.
“I wanted to attract people’s attention to the fact that Mars exploration today is available to practically anyone,” Egorov said. “At the same time we were able to connect with the history of our country, which we were reminded of after many years through the images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.”
The predicted Mars 3 landing site was at latitude 45 degrees south, longitude 202 degrees east, in Ptolemaeus Crater. HiRISE acquired a large image at this location in November 2007, and promising candidates for the hardware from Mars 3 were found on Dec. 31, 2012.
The candidate parachute is the most distinctive feature in the images (seen above at top.) It is an especially bright spot for this region, about 8.2 yards (7.5 meters) in diameter.
The parachute would have a diameter of 12 yards (11 meters) if fully spread out over the surface, so this is consistent.
“Together, this set of features and their layout on the ground provide a remarkable match to what is expected from the Mars 3 landing, but alternative explanations for the features cannot be ruled out,” said HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “Further analysis of the data and future images to better understand the three-dimensional shapes may help to confirm this interpretation.”
Maybe it’s because Jurassic Park is in theaters again, but we at Universe Today sometimes worry about how one person can mess up an otherwise technologically amazing system. It took just one nefarious employee to shut down the dinosaur park’s security fences in the movie and cause havoc. How do we ensure science can fight against that, especially when everyday citizens are getting more and more involved in the scientific process?
But perhaps, after talking to Chris Lintott, that view is too suspicious. Lintott is in charge of a collaborative astronomy and science project called the Zooniverse that uses public contributions to fuel some of the science he performs. Basically, anyone with an Internet connection and a desire to contribute can hunt for planets or examine astronomical objects, among many other projects.
Lintott, an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford, says the science requires public contributions. Moreover, he hasn’t had a problem yet despite 800,000 individual contributors to the Zooniverse. He told Universe Today about how that’s possible in an e-mail interview.
1) Zooniverse has already produced tangible scientific results in space through collaborating with ordinary folks. Can you talk about some of the papers/findings that have been produced in your various projects?
There’s a long, long list. I’m particularly excited at the minute about our work on bulgeless galaxies; most spiral galaxies have a bulge full of old stars at their centre, but we’ve found plenty that don’t. That’s exciting because we think that means that they’re guaranteed not to have had a big merger in the last 10 billion years or so, and that means we can use them to figure out just what effect mergers have on galaxies. You’ll be hearing more about them in the next year or so as we have plenty of observing time lined up.
I’m also a big fan of Planet Hunters 1b, our first confirmed planet discovery – it’s a planet in a four-star system, and thus provides a nice challenge to our understanding of how planets form. We’ve found lots of planet candidates (systems where we’re more than 90% sure there’s a planet there) but it’s nice to get one confirmed and especially nice for it to be such an interesting world.
2) What benefits have you received from involving the public in space projects, in terms of results as well as raising awareness?
We couldn’t do our research any other way. Astronomers have got very good in the last few decades at collecting information about the universe, but we’re not always so good at learning how to use all of that information. The Zooniverse allows us to collaborate with hundreds of thousands of people so that we can scale our efforts to deal with that flood of data, and many of those volunteers go much further than just clicking on buttons we provide. So really our research is now driven in collaboration with thousands of people, spread all around the world – that’s an inspiring thought.
3) How many people do you manage in your space projects, approximately? How do you keep track of them all?
We have more than 800,000 registered volunteers – luckily, the computer keeps track of them (when they log in!).
4) How do you ensure their results meet the standards of scientific publication?
We carefully design projects so that we’re sure they will produce scientifically useful results before they’re launched; this usually means running a test with a small amount of data and comparing work done by volunteers with that of professionals. We usually find the volunteers are better than us! It helps that we have several people complete each task, so collectively we don’t make accidental mistakes.
5) How do you guard against somebody deliberately or accidentally altering the results?
The system insists that every classification is independent, and as we have several people look at each classification finding any deliberate attack would be easy – in any case, we’ve never seen any evidence of such a thing. Despite popular reports, most people are nice!
Many types of craters are captured in this panorama of recent Dawn images. Credit: NASA
There’s a new citizen science project in town, and this one will allow you to be among the first to see high-resolution, stunning images of Vesta from the Dawn mission. Called AsteroidMappers, the project asks the public to help the Dawn mission scientists to identify craters, boulders and other features on Vesta’s surface. “If you’ve already been addicted to MoonMappers, you’ll be even more addicted to AsteroidMappers!”said Nicole Gugliucci from CosmoQuest, home to several citizen science projects.
As you know, Dawn has been in orbit of the asteroid Vesta, but just recently left orbit and is now on its way to Ceres. This is a first in space exploration, where a spacecraft orbits one body and then leaves to go on to another. This can only be accomplished because of Dawn’s revolutionary ion engine.
The goal of the Dawn mission is to characterize the conditions and processes of the solar system’s earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations. Ceres and Vesta both reside in the asteroid belt, but yet each has followed a very different evolutionary path constrained by the diversity of processes that operated during the first few million years of solar system evolution.
Even the Dawn scientists have been amazed at what they’ve seen at Vesta.
“We have acquired so much more data than we had planned even in late 2011,” Dr. Marc Rayman, the mission’s Chief Engineer, told Universe Today in a previous article. “We have conducted a tremendous exploration of Vesta – the second most massive body between Mars and Jupiter, a giant of the main asteroid belt.”
As with every CosmoQuest project, there is a tutorial to help you get started. But the work area is fairly intuitive, with instructions and hints along the way.
The Dawn scientists have not yet released to the public all the images, so by working on this citizen science project, you’ll be looking at pristine images that perhaps no one else has seen before. The images are absolutely beautiful, as Vesta has turned out to be even more fascinating than expected, with huge impact basins, steep cliffs and unusual features on its surface.
“Vesta is unlike any other object we’ve visited in the solar system,” said Dawn mission team member Vishnu Reddy. “We see a wide range of variation on the surface, with some areas bright as snow, and other areas as dark as coal.”
Scientists have said that Vesta more closely resembles a small planet or Earth’s Moon than another asteroid, and they now have a better understanding of both Vesta’s surface and interior, and can conclusively link Vesta with meteorites that have fallen on Earth.
So, check out AsteroidMappers and enjoy the views! As @therealjason said on Twitter, “I don’t map Vesta very often, but when I do, I choose @cosmoquestX – Stay curious, my friends.”
Galaxy Zoo was a project set up in July 2007 by astronomers Chris Lintott and Kevin Schawinski asking members of the public to help classify a million galaxy images produced by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Five years on and Galaxy Zoo has grown into an entire Zooniverse of projects allowing members to contribute to real science across a range of disciplines. Join us to celebrate the giant of citizen science, mark its achievements and look forward to the future.
Modern science can produce huge amounts of data and making sense of it all can take years and often needs a human eye to pick out the fine details. The Zooniverse unleashes an army of willing volunteers to pore over images and data sets. Galaxy Zoo members have now classified over 250 million galaxies. At the time of writing there are currently 656,773 people taking part in Zooniverse projects across the globe. Galaxy Zoo participants alone have contributed to more than 30 published scientific papers. One of the Zooniverse’s great strengths is the ability to throw up some unexpected discoveries like the now famous Hanny’s Voorwerp, named after Dutch school teacher Hanny van Arkel, the Galaxy Zoo volunteer who spotted it. Such a serendipitous discovery is possible when data is exposed to large numbers of users who are encouraged to flag up anything they think looks out of the ordinary.
To mark Galaxy Zoo’s 5th birthday there will be a relaunch of the project which will compare images using a new dataset from Hubble’s CANDELS survey of distant, early galaxies to what we see today.
The range of projects now available to members is extensive. Users of the Solar Stormwatch project analyse interactive diagrams produced by NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO). Planet Hunters use data from Kepler to search for transiting exoplanets. The Milky Way Project users have access to image data from the Spitzer Space Telescope to identify infrared bubbles in the interstellar medium to help us understand how stars form. SETI Live searches for interesting signals coming from the Kepler Field. Moon Zoo participants use data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to catalogue features on the Moon down to the size of a wastepaper basket.
Away from space there are also projects involved in climate, nature and humanities. Old Weather is a project that models Earth’s climate using wartime shipping logs and Whale FM members listen to, and catagorize, the songs of Orcas to help understand what the whales are saying, while Ancient Lives gives participants the chance to decipher and study the Oxyrhynchus collection of papyri. The NEEMO project analyzes images of marine life and features taken from the underwater base at the National Marine Sanctuary in Key Largo, Florida. What’s the Score asks people to help describe over four thousand digitised musical scores made available by the Bodleian Libraries. With a global posse of citizen scientists eager to study real data at their disposal, the range of projects will likely grow over the coming years. So happy 5th Birthday Zooniverse and here’s to many more!