Kat is sharing her impressions of Galaxy Zoo and Radio Galaxy Zoo as the fifth post in our Thoughts From the Classroom series.
My name is Kat and I attend a school called GATE Academy. Let me tell you a story about my experience with Galaxy Zoo.
Two months ago, my teacher discovered Galaxy Zoo. She thought it would be a good class activity, so she had us read some articles as background information for what we were about to be doing on Galaxy Zoo. These articles included information about the different characteristics of the different galaxy types and how this galactic information ties into the evolution of our Universe. It hadn’t occurred to me before that galaxies tie into the Universe as a whole, but it made sense once I read it and I thought it was fascinating. Then we started actually classifying galaxies as our class assignment.
In retrospect, I should have been amazed and acknowledged how incredible looking at these far-off galaxies was, but I just didn’t see it at the time. I overlooked it because my mind was set on it being a class assignment and how I just needed to do it to get a good grade.
When I started, all that came up on my screen were pictures of blobs of clumpy blurry things. I wasn’t very impressed. Everyone around me, though, started seeing beautiful, wonderful images of incredible galaxies.
This is when I understood what a privilege it was to be participating in this new, cutting edge, amazing research. On my screen showed actual galaxies from outer space. It struck me how little we know about the universe around us, because nobody really knows what’s out there. We have hypotheses, but, honestly, anything could be out there. I became proud of the blobs I classified, because you really needed to look and observe the characteristics, unlike perfect, sharp, clear galaxies (but these were really quite beautiful). There was more mystery in the blobs for me, so classifying them correctly (or as close as I could get) became my challenge.
I learned a lot about classifying these galaxies along the way. The Zooniverse taught me about how galaxies can be spiral, irregular, or smooth, with bars, clumps, and varying sizes of central bulges. I learned about how black holes are visible in radio telescopes but not in infrared. I also learned the different types of black holes, such as compact, extended, and multiple.
After seven weeks of classifying these galaxies, my classmates and I had classified over 9,000 galaxies. We were all proud of our accomplishment and of all we had learned along the way. I definitely recommend you at least try classifying on Galaxy Zoo, whether its galaxies or black holes or what have you. Why not? Don’t you want to say you’ve had the experience? Would you like to contribute to our knowledge of the universe, or even do your OWN original research about the wonders around us? If you have any of those interests, or just want to check it out because it sounds cool (and trust me, it is), definitely go to Galaxy Zoo and start classifying.