Fellow science writer and astronomer Chris Lintott of Oxford University in the United Kingdom is one of the founders of a unique project that everyone can participate in. It’s called the Galaxy Zoo and lets you and me and anybody else who wants to participate chip in and do some actual astronomy. The project was first launched in July 2007 and if you joined up then, you had a huge assortment of galaxies to study and categorize according to their shapes. The site got more than 50 million classifications from nearly 150,000 participants.
Well, that was so successful and resulted in several papers published about the project that the group behind Galaxy Zoo decided to focus on the nearest, brightest, and most beautiful galaxies. Starting today, they’re available for users to study and classify in the updated Galaxy Zoo 2 database.
The best part about this is that just about anybody can do this. In fact, the more people who participate, the better the science is. This is because multiple classifications allow the scientists in the project to focus on specific types of galaxies, and the more people who identify a galaxy as a spiral (for example) the more reliable its classification is.
I joined in the Galaxy Zoo project not long after it first opened up, and I spent some classifying galaxies (after I passed their painless entrance exam). Now that Zoo 2 is up, I’m happily resuming the role of zookeeper. Won’t you join me and the other 150,000 or so folks who help keep the cosmic zoo classified and tidy? Come on in — they don’t bite and there’s a lot of satisfaction in working with scientists to study the cosmos of galaxies out there.