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Saturday, 13 October 2012

It's Written In The Stars

Fancy a touch of galactic typography? Or perhaps a piece of stellar sign writing, if you will excuse the pun.

Galaxy Zoo has been in existence for the past five years but they have just launched a fourth version of their web site.

Beginning with a data set of a million galaxies imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Galaxy Zoo has developed since then. They are using crowd sourcing techniques to classify the shapes of galaxies. Galaxy Zoo asked members of the public, the Zooites as they have labelled them, to look through nearly one million galaxies to make a catalogue of their shapes for scientific use. More than 50 million classifications were received by the project during its first year, contributed by more than 150,000 people.

But of course many people are sighting the same galaxy but there is 'method in the madness'.

"This is deliberate; having multiple independent classifications of the same object is important, as it allows us to assess how reliable our results are. For example, for projects where we may only need a few thousand galaxies but want to be sure they're all spirals before using up valuable telescope time on them, there's no problem - we can just use those that 100% of classifiers agree are spiral. For other projects, we may need to look at the properties of hundreds of thousands of galaxies, and can use those that a majority say are spiral."

The real fun start with a new interactive tool professional astronomer Steven Bamford has developed.  Now you can have your own message written in real galaxies using the My Galaxies generator.  There is really only one word to describe it:

Hours of fun are to be had writing one's thoughts in the heavens.  Once written you can click on your galactic creation to get a larger version and save it as a digital file.

Just the thing for weather school holidays; fun and educational at the same time.  And if you wish to expand your science horizons still further take a look at Zooinverse, home to the internet's largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects.
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