Galaxy Zoo: Leveraging the Work of Citizen Astronomers

by Eric on March 26, 2009

If you’re looking to help with astronomical research, but don’t have the money for expensive telescopes or particularly relish the idea of chilling in an observatory at 14,000 ft., you’ll definitely want to have a look at Galaxy Zoo. Galaxy Zoo leverages the almighty power of the internets like a giant biological computer with the sole purpose of identifying illegal immigrants from surveillance footage classifying the millions of galaxies photographed by astronomical telescopes.

Getting involved with the project is quite easy. After creating an account with Galaxy Zoo, participants go through a brief tutorial to learn the technique of galaxy classification, then they can go right to work viewing images of real galaxies and classifying them, not unlike a mass of unpaid grad students.

Initially, the Galaxy Zoo team set about to divide up elliptical galaxies from spiral galaxies. Now they are engaged in a much more ambitious program of classifying galaxies by feature, comparing them against each other, and identifying rare objects like gravitational lenses. Based upon the work of its “citizen scientists” Galaxy Zoo has published 4 papers, with a 5th accepted for publication, and they still can use the help:

Your hard work has made Galaxy Zoo 2 an enormous success, as galaxy
classifications have been flooding in at a record-breaking rate. User
newolder recently recorded the 15 millionth  classifying click and
we’re now heading for 20 million. Please don’t stop now, though – we
still need your help at

The more of you who take part, and the more galaxies that you classify
the better our results will be in the end.

To help encourage those of you who haven’t really got to grips with
Zoo 2 yet, users who complete more than 100 classifications will get a
sneak preview of a series of tours of the Galaxy Zoo galaxies embedded
in GoogleSky. You’ll be whisked around the sky on a personal tour,
produced by Ben Hoyle and narrated by Galaxy Zoo team members at the
University of Portsmouth.

You’ll find the number of galaxies you’ve classified and the link to
the tours in the ‘My Galaxies’ section, which also now includes all of
your favourite galaxies. We’ve also made it easier than ever to find
your way around, with help available as you go along and an ‘invert’
button to help you find faint features in the galaxy.

Galaxy Zoo is already – thanks to you – the most successful online
citizen science project. Our fifth scientific paper, on blue
ellipticals in Zoo 1, has been accepted by the journal, and we have
just received the latest dose of follow-up observing time, from the
Japanese Suzaku satellite. All of this depends on your help – so log
onto and get classifying.

Thanks, and keep up the good work.

Chris & the Galaxy Zoo team

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