Ever wanted to see your name written in the stars? Well now a cool, new web application lets you do just that – thanks to a gigantic cosmic database filled with galaxies mapped across the visible Universe by citizen scientist volunteers. Here is the official statement….
Volunteers participating in the Galaxy Zoo project have been helping scientists gain new insights by classifying galaxies seen in hundreds of thousands of telescope images as spiral or elliptical. Along the way they’ve also stumbled across odd-looking galaxies which resemble each letter of the alphabet.
The international team behind Galaxy Zoo, including astronomers from Oxford University, are inviting people to be involved in more discoveries as they launch a new incarnation of the site at http://galaxyzoo.org.
From today, the site includes more than 250,000 new images of galaxies, most of which have never been seen by humans. By classifying them, volunteers will add to our understanding of the processes which shaped our universe.
“We’d like to thank all those that have taken part in Galaxy Zoo in the past five years. Humans are better than computers at pattern recognition tasks like this, and we couldn’t have got so far without everyone’s help,” says Galaxy Zoo principal investigator Dr. Chris Lintott from the University of Oxford. “Now we’ve got a new challenge, and we’d like to encourage volunteers old and new to get involved. You don’t have to be an expert — in fact we’ve found not being an expert tends to make you better at this task. There are too many images for us to inspect ourselves, but by asking hundreds of thousands of people to help us we can find out what’s lurking in the data.”
More than 250,000 people have taken part in the Galaxy Zoo project since its launch in 2007, sorting through over 1 million images. Their findings have ranged from the scientifically exciting to the weird and wonderful.
Among the spiral and elliptical galaxies that the volunteers have characterized and classified, they have found an entire alphabet of galaxies. Galaxy Zoo team member Dr. Steven Bamford of the University of Nottingham has created a website at http://www.mygalaxies.co.uk where anyone can write their name in the stars.
The team are also keen to add more animals to the volunteers’ celestial zoo, having found a convincing penguin-shaped galaxy.
Along with the quirky appeal of such findings, the researchers suggest such unusual formations may also tell us something about what happens when galaxies collide.
The new images on the Galaxy Zoo site come from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a ground-based telescope in New Mexico, and from large surveys with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
Astronomer and Galaxy Zoo team member Kevin Schawinski from ETH Zurich in Switzerland says: “The two sources of data work together perfectly: the new images from Sloan give us our most detailed view of the local universe, while the CANDELS survey from the Hubble telescope allows us to look deeper into the universe’s past than ever before.”
The team are hoping that the hard work of volunteers on the new site will allow data from the two telescopes to be compared, offering insights into how nearby galaxies as we see them today may have arisen from how the universe looked in the past.
Dr. Karen Masters from the University of Portsmouth, another team member, explains: “In astronomy, we’re lucky enough to get to see both the past and the present of the universe. By comparing the two, we can try to understand the forces which have shaped the formation of the galaxies in it, including our own Milky Way.”
- adapted from UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD press release.
Tags: galaxies, galaxy zoo
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Similar to how medieval maps of Earth ranged from speculations of the unknown to concrete scientific observations, cosmologists today are slowly refining our understanding of the structure and evolution of the Universe as a whole. Now a team of astronomers has announced that they have created a 12 billion light year-deep survey map that reveals the most precise makeup of the Universe to date. Known as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III, the epic new map targets nearly a million galaxies, which not only provides the most comprehensive view of the night sky ever made but sheds light on mysterious dark energy and history of the expansion of the universe.
Check out this amazing animation fly through of the galaxies plotted in the SDSS survey just released. Amazing to think that you can see nearly 400,000 galaxies in the animation.
Credit: Miguel A. Aragón (Johns Hopkins University), Mark SubbaRao (Adler Planetarium), Alex Szalay (Johns Hopkins University), Yushu Yao (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, NERSC), and the SDSS-III Collaboration
Tags: cosmology, Dark Energy, galaxies, SDSS
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In this NASA documentary take a look at some of the most distant galaxies Hubble has ever seen, and find out why, when we look at the most distant objects in the universe, we are also seeing the cosmos’ earliest objects.
Tags: cosmology, galaxies, Hubble
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The new Wide Field Camera 3 aboard the Hubble Space Telescope has taken the deepest image yet of the Universe in near-infrared light. The faintest and reddest objects in the image are likely the oldest galaxies ever identified, having formed between only 600-900 million years after the Big Bang.
In 2004, Hubble created the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF), the deepest visible-light image of the Universe, and now, with its brand-new camera, Hubble is seeing even farther. This image was taken in the same region as the visible HUDF, but is taken at longer wavelengths. Hubble’s newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) collects light from near-infrared wavelengths and therefore looks even farther back towards the Big Bang, because the light from hot young stars in these very distant galaxies is stretched out of the ultraviolet and visible regions of the spectrum into near-infrared wavelengths by the expansion of the Universe. This new deep view also provides insights into how galaxies grew in their formative years early in the Universe’s history.
The photo was taken with the new WFC3/infrared camera on Hubble in late August 2009, during a total of four days of pointing for 173 000 seconds of total exposure time. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye and therefore does not have colors that can be perceived. The faintest objects are about one billion times fainter than the dimmest visible objects seen with the naked eye.
Tags: galaxies, Hubble
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