Galaxy Zoo opens
Press Release: 10 July 2007
Everyone can visit the ‘Galaxy Zoo’
Astronomers are inviting members of the public to help them make major new discoveries by taking part in a census of one million galaxies.
Visitors to www.galaxyzoo.org will get to see stunning images of galaxies, most of which have never been viewed by human eyes before. By sorting these images into “spiral galaxies” (like our own Milky Way) or “elliptical galaxies”, visitors will help astronomers to understand the structure of the universe. The new digital images were taken using the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico.
‘It’s not just for fun’ said Kevin Schawinski of Astrophysics at Oxford University where the data will be analysed. ‘The human brain is actually better than a computer at pattern recognition tasks like this. Whether you spend five minutes, fifteen minutes or five hours using the site your contribution will be invaluable.’ Visitors will be able to print out posters of the galaxies they have explored and even compete to see who’s the best virtual astronomer.
The galaxyzoo.org team were inspired by projects such as Stardust@home, in which NASA invited the public to sort through dust grains obtained by a mission to Comet Wild-2. Oxford’s Dr Chris Lintott, co-presenter of the BBC’s Sky at Night programme and galaxyzoo.org team member, commented: ‘What the Stardust team achieved was incredible, but our galaxies are much more interesting to look at than their dust grains. We hope that participants in Galaxy Zoo will not only contribute to science, but have a lot of fun along the way.’
Images for the project are taken from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which uses a 142-megapixel digital camera to create the largest digital map of the universe. ‘It is great that digital archives we have built for science are now being used by the public to look at the universe’ says Professor Bob Nichol from the University of Portsmouth. ‘It will be great to have all the galaxies classified; it’s as fundamental as knowing if a human is male or female.’
The astronomers hope that the survey will shed light on how different kinds of galaxies are distributed across the sky. The results might even reveal that there is something fundamentally wrong with existing models of the universe.
Sir Patrick Moore, an enthusiastic supporter of the project, said: ‘Non-professionals have always been deeply involved in studying the sky and they now have yet another opportunity to make themselves really useful. Moreover, their help is now of immense value so do join up – as I am doing myself!’
For more information visit www.galaxyzoo.org or contact;
the University of Oxford Press Office on +44 (0)1865 283877 or
Notes to editors
• The Galaxy Zoo team includes scientists from the University of Oxford, the University of Portsmouth and Johns Hopkins University (USA), and Fingerprint Digital Media of Belfast.
• Images related to the project can be downloaded from www.galaxyzoo.org/Press.aspx
• For more on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey visit www.sdss.org For full details of those involved go to www.sdss.org/collaboration/credits.html