Andromeda Project We Hardly Knew Ye

This time last year we launched the Andromeda Project. The aim was the get everyone’s help in locating the star clusters in the Andromeda Galaxy, our next-door neighbour in intergalactic space. The project went better than we could have imagined, and just over two weeks later we had completed more than 1,000,000 classifications and the project’s science team were busy wrangling data.

Cliff at AAS

In fact, in January Cliff Johnson took a poster to one of the world’s biggest astronomy meetings – the January meeting of the AAS – and presented the results from the Andromeda Project, which had only launched 6 weeks prior. It was an amazing example of the power of citizen science to help researchers accomplish the kind of data analysis that computers cannot do reliably.

We decided to do a second round of the Andromeda Project to complete the job we’d started, using both the data that remained in the archive and also new data that was only just being taken last year when the project launched. So in October 2013 (just two months ago) we once again invited the Zooniverse community to come and find star clusters and galaxies. They once again astounded us by gobbling up the data even faster – ably assisted by a trench of new users brought to the project from Facebook’s popular I F***king Love Science page. In a week the job was done.

The science team have already begun processing the data from this second round and the results are amazing. In fact: they’re right here just for you, just because it’s nearly Christmas and just because we wanted to give you a present. So here they are: the first maps of all the star clusters and galaxies in the data from the PHAT survey of Andromeda. Marked and classified by  the wonderful Andromeda Project community.

AP Map
Clusters are in blue, galaxies in red. The background image is single-band F475W data showing the galaxy itself.

You can see how the background galaxies are best seen at the outer edges (because we are looking through less material), and the clusters are found predominately in the spiral arms (where more star formation is happening). These plots will form part of the publications the science team and currently working on, and which will most likely appear on the Zooniverse Publications page sometime in 2014. Follow along on the blog, Twitter and Facebook for updates from the science team in the coming weeks and months.

Congratulations to everyone who helped out and gave their time to the Andromeda Project: you were amazing!

So as much as I’d like to wish the Andromeda Project a happy birthday, it seems like I should really wish it a happy retirement. Luckily we have more space-based projects coming soon to the Zooniverse – so the community will have plenty to get along with. However, the Andromeda Project will always have a special place in our hearts for its efficient and dedicated volunteers. Who knows, maybe one day it will come out of retirement for one last hurrah? We can only hope.

Andromeda Project, we hardly knew ye.

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