Two of Galaxy Zoo’s founders, Chris Lintott, from the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, and Kate Land reflect on the project’s success in September’s Physics World.
While there has been a range of computer programs that make use of the idle time of users’ PCs to churn through scientific data, like ClimatePrediction.net for modelling global warming, Galaxy Zoo was the first of its kind to engage computer users and ask them to apply their own brain power to help sort one type of galaxy from another.
With almost a million galaxy images provided by the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico, the Galaxy Zoo team knew it was a tall order. However, even on the day of launch after a small news item on Radio 4’s Today programme, the site was receiving more than 70,000 classifications each hour.
As Lintott and Land write, “An attractive feature of the project was that these galaxies had literally never been looked at before with the human eye – so people really felt that they were helping with original and unique contributions.”
The original impetus for the project was a research dilemma that required a complete reassessment of 50,000 images. Existing criteria used to define elliptical galaxies – colour, density profile and spectral features – appeared to leave out a small fraction of important elliptical galaxies that were undergoing star formation.
The 150,000 amateur astronomers have helped make more than 50 million classifications, thereby helping the researchers obtain a good statistical error for each one. For about a third of the 900,000 galaxies, more than 80 per cent agreed on the morphology which gave the researchers an astoundingly good starting point.
Advances in our understanding of the universe have already been made and a selection of journal articles has already been published. The researchers are now developing Galaxy Zoo to make a more detailed classification of a smaller set of galaxies plus a deliberate search for more unusual objects.
The founders write, “As we develop the citizen science that powers Galaxy Zoo, we can expect many new discoveries to follow. After all, having 150,000 co-authors is an excellent motivator when it comes to writing papers.”
Also in this issue:
•Ugo Amaldi, son of Italian physicist Edoardo Amaldi, reflects on his father’s remarkable scientific life in particle physics, nuclear physics and gravitational-wave research, as well as his key role in setting up CERN and the European Space Agency.
•The discovery of iron-based high-temperature superconductors has prompted a huge surge of interest in these new materials and rekindled the dream of room-temperature superconductivity.
What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin
Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
18.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.07.2018 | Life Sciences
18.07.2018 | Health and Medicine