I’m a space geek. I generally consider space- and astronomy-related geekery to be forms of science geekery, so my interests in both fall under the “science geek” badge I’ve pinned on myself. At any rate, if it involves space or astronomy, I’m there.
I’m also a fan of crowdsourcing. I love the idea of a group of people, generally uninvolved in the project at hand, helping some accomplish some task or peoject bit by bit by bit. It’s a fascinating concept, and terribly interesting (and occasionally fun) in practice. If it involves crowdsourcing (and isn’t boring), I’m there.
So riddle me this: how did I not know about Zooniverse?! How did I not know of the existence of not one space-related crowdsourcing project (or, as Zooniverse calls it, “citizen science project”), but several? My first experience with Zooniverse wasn’t even space-related: someone on Twitter mentioned the Old Weather project, in which users transcribe and digitize weather observations from old logbooks of Royal Navy ships circa World War I. Suitably intruiged, I signed up and started transcribing. Several days passed before I noticed in any meaningful way the banner at the top of every OW page, which reads “Old Weather is a Zooniverse project …just like Moon Zoo.” Intrigued, I clicked through and discovered the wealth of other Zooniverse projects. I’ve tinkered with all of them, and while my level of interest in each varies (Moon Zoo being my least favourite), I’ve fallen in love with one of them: Galaxy Zoo: Hubble.
The premise of GZ: Hubble is simple: classify galaxies. It sounds confusing (and perhaps a little daunting?), but take a quick run-through of the straight-forward tutorial and one should be ready to start classifying. The classification process is nigh idiot-proof: you’re presented with an image of a galaxy (or, as sometimes happens, an image of a star or artefact), and prompted to classify it by answering simple questions. Is it smooth? Does it have a spiral shape? Is there anything odd about the galaxy, or perhaps something nearby (Is it distorted? Merging with another galaxy? Does it have a ring?)? Finish classifying one galaxy, and you move on to the next. If one gets stuck (is that a smooth galaxy, or maybe a spiral on its side?), there’s an incredibly helpful forum one can turn to. It took about, oh, ten minutes for me to decide that this was definitely something I can see myself doing any time I have time to kill, can’t sleep, there’s nothing on TV or the internet, I’ve lost my current book, etc.
The best part for me? The images. Some of them are fairly mundane (if any image of any galaxy could ever be considered mundane, which I doubt), but some of them are incredible indeed. Below you’ll find some of my favourites (all of which I’ve helped classify). Follow their links for more info about them. (And it should go without saying that if you’re inclined toward space geekery, you should give GZ: Hubble a try.)
(And by the bye, this isn’t a sponsored post. I don’t do paid blogging or in-blog advertising. I just really like me some galaxies.)