Galactic Smorgasbord

The famous Sombrero galaxy (M104) is a bright ...

Image via Wikipedia

I found a neat way for you to help out with astronomy research

Galaxy Zoo is a website where you can help the professional astronomers classify galaxies.  The Hubble Space Telescope takes photos of literally millions of very distant galaxies of many different types and identifying what type each galaxy is helps scientists understand the formation and nature of the Milky Way, the galaxy in which we live, as well as gathers data on a host of other questions. 

For example, scientists are particularly interested in a phenomena called gravitational lensing, the capability of very massive galaxies to actually bend, and magnify, the light from galaxies behind them.  



The Galaxy Zoo goes through a very simple “one of these things is not like the other” process.  First, the website trains you on what to look for, showing you photos of various galaxies and pointing out the features that of interest in classifying them.  Then, you can register on the website for free and the site starts showing you pictures of galaxies and asking you a cascading series of a few multiple choice questions about what the galaxy looks like. 

You don’t have to be a scientist, several ordinary folks like you and I have made important discoveries through this process.  Galaxy Zoo shows each galaxy to more than one person and then takes the most common results.  If somebody notices something strange , theer are pros who go in and have a look and try to figure it out. 

~ by Bill Housley on September 21, 2010.

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