You out there reading this on your computer screen: want to take part in an international scientific research project? Using just your computer you can help identify galaxies light years away — and you don’t even need a telescope! That’s because ordinary web users working together have proven to be just as good at identifying galaxies as professional astronomers.
The Galaxy Zoo files contain almost a quarter of a million galaxies that have been imaged with a camera attached to a robotic telescope. In order to understand how these galaxies — and our own — formed, scientists need your help to classify them according to their shapes — a task at which your brain is better than even the fastest computer.
More than 200,000 people have taken part in Galaxy Zoo so far, producing a wealth of valuable data and sending telescopes on Earth and in space chasing after their discoveries. Zoo’s current project, launched on February 17, is known as Galaxy Zoo 2. It asks you to delve deeper into 250,000 of the brightest and best galaxies to search for the strange and unusual.
‘The first Galaxy Zoo provided us with a Rough Guide to the sky and now we want our users to fill in all the details and create a real Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxies,’ said Dr Chris Lintott of Oxford University, one of the founders of Galaxy Zoo.
‘Galaxy Zoo has given everyone with a computer an opportunity to contribute to real scientific research. We want people to feel truly involved in the project and keep them up to date with what we’re doing and with the results they’re generating,’ said Dr Steven Bamford of the University of Nottingham, England.
Dr Kevin Schawinski of Yale University, another of Galaxy Zoo’s founders said: ‘The response from the public was absolutely overwhelming and, with their help, we’ve been able to learn a lot about how galaxies evolve and how they relate to their environment. With the detail from Zoo 2, we’ll be able to discover even more about how galaxies work.’
You can join thousands of amateurs around the world on the Zoo 2 project. Go to to sign up. And visit their blog at .
Stargazers should also check out the website for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 . It’s a great resource for teachers and parents too.