Citizen science

Innovative crowd-sourced astronomy project kicks off in Chile

Groundbreaking Galaxy Zoo program recruits volunteers to classify never before seen corners of our universe.

Monday, January 27, 2014  
Centaurus A, a giant galaxy 13 million light years from Earth. Photo by R. Gendler, J.-E. Ovaldsen & Centaurus A, a giant galaxy 13 million light years from Earth. Photo by R. Gendler, J.-E. Ovaldsen & S. Guisard / ESO



“Few have witnessed what you’re about to see” — these are the first words you encounter upon entering the website of the innovative, crowd-sourced research project that is revolutionizing science by using the public to help process data.

Galaxy Zoo recruits volunteers to help classify millions of images taken by state of the art telescopes, researching previously mysterious parts of the universe and helping to chart the great unknown — and now Chile is playing its part in this exciting program.

The project began at Oxford University in 2007 and runs as a collaboration between leading institutes across the world.

Since its inception, hundreds of thousands of volunteers across 30 countries have classified 60 millions galaxies — dwarfing what an ordinary research team could have accomplished in decades.

Part of the team that devised the project, Dr Chris Lintott explained that as well as furthering astronomical research, volunteers can also hope to have fun along the way as they appreciate the wonders of the universe.

"One advantage is that you get to see parts of space that have never been seen before. These images were taken by a robotic telescope and processed automatically, so the odds are that when you log on, that first galaxy you see will be one that no human has seen before,” Lintott told the BBC. "It's not often you get to see something unique."

Now this exciting new project is coming to the Spanish-speaking world, and stargazing, space-specialist Chile — home to 50 percent of the world’s astronomy infrastructure —  is the base of the next face of Galaxy Zoo’s push for citizen discovery.

The Chilean-based project is funded by Fondo Gemini-Conicyt, a government program to expand astronomy and science in the Andean nation.

The Spanish-language Galaxy Zoo has more than 1.5 million images from the Hubble Telescope and the Sloan Digital Survey, so there’s plenty of work to be done.

Anyone can participate, you needn’t be an astronomy aficionado, the only requirement is taking part in a brief online instruction process. Once the classifications and the tasks have been explained, each budding space explorer is given several test photos and all those who score reasonably are asked to get aboard and lend a hand in exploring the universe.

img_banner