All posts by ttfnrob

Space Warps for BBC Stargazing Live

This week is the BBC’s Stargazing Live show: three now-annual nights of live stargazing and astronomy chatter, live from Jodrell Bank. In 2012 we asked the Stargazing Live viewers to help us discover a planet with Planet Hunters, in 2013 we explored the surface of Mars with Planet Four. This year we are inviting everybody to use our Space Warps project to discover some of most beautiful and rare objects in the universe: gravitational lenses.

Space Warps launched last year and originally the project asked everyone to spot gravitationally lensed features in optical images from the CFHT Legacy Survey. We’re still busy processing the data but you seem to have found lenses – including the three shown at the top of this post! For Stargazing Live we’re adding a whole new dataset of infrared images, which has not been deeply searched for lenses before. We’re also now working with ’targeted’ data. This means that we are only showing images containing objects in them that could either be lenses, or would be interesting if they were being lensed. So your odds of finding something amazing have really gone up!

Screenshot of Space Warps

Gravitational lenses occur when a massive galaxy – or cluster of galaxies – pass in front of more distant objects. The enormous mass of the (relatively) closer object literally bend light around them and distort the image of the distant source. Imagine holding up a magnifying glass and waving it around the night sky so that starlight is bent and warped by the lens. You can see more about this here on the ESO website.

We’re blogging right now from Jodrell Bank (the dish is looking lovely BTW) and the Stargazing Live set and everyone here is buzzing with the idea that we might find some gravitational lenses that have never been seen before! Good luck, and happy classifying. Even K9 is excited.

New Project: Radio Galaxy Zoo

Seasons greetings everyone! Since you’ve been so good this year we have a very special present for you… a brand new project: Radio Galaxy Zoo. We need you to help us discover black holes.

radiogzavatar

Earlier this year, Galaxy Zoo expanded to include the infrared. Now Radio Galaxy Zoo involves looking at galaxies in yet another light. This time we are asking you to match huge jets – seen in radio emission – to the supermassive black holes at the centre of the galaxy that produced them. This requires looking at the galaxies in infrared and radio wavelengths. These galaxies are nothing like our own, and your classifications will allow scientists to understand the causes of these erupting black holes and how they affect the galaxy surrounding them.

Get involved now at http://radio.galaxyzoo.org – and have fun discovering black holes in our Universe.

A Brand New Milky Way Project

The Milky Way Project (MWP) is complete. It took about three years and 50,000 volunteers have trawled all our images multiple times and drawn more than 1,000,000 bubbles and several million other objects, including star clusters, green knots, and galaxies. We have produced several papers already and more are on the way. It’s been a huge success but: there’s even more data!

And so it is with glee that we announce the brand new Milky Way Project! It’s got more data, more objects to find, and it’s even more gorgeous.

The new MWP is being launched to include data from different regions of the galaxy in a new infrared wavelength combination. The new data consists of Spitzer/IRAC images from two surveys: Vela-Carina, which is essentially an extension of GLIMPSE covering Galactic longitudes 255°–295°, and GLIMPSE 3D, which extends GLIMPSE 1+2 to higher Galactic latitudes (at selected longitudes only). The images combine 3.6, 4.5, and 8.0 µm in the “classic” Spitzer/IRAC color scheme.  There are roughly 40,000 images to go through.

An EGO shines below a bright star cluster
An EGO shines below a bright star cluster

The latest Zooniverse technology and design is being brought to bear on this big data problem. We are using our newest features to retire images with nothing in them (as determined by the volunteers of course) and to give more screen time to those parts of the galaxy where there are lots of pillars, bubbles and clusters – as well as other things. We’re marking more objects –  bow shocks, pillars, EGOs  – and getting rid of some older ones that either aren’t visible in the new data or weren’t as scientifically useful as we’d hoped (specifically: red fuzzies and green knots).

Screenshot 2013-12-11 21.46.46

We’ve also upgraded to the newest version of Talk, and have kept all your original comments so you can still see the previous data and the objects that were found there. The new Milky Way Project is teeming with more galaxies, stars clusters and unknown objects than the original MWP.

It’s very exciting! There are tens of thousands of images from the Spitzer Space Telescope to look through. By telling us what you see in this infrared data, we can better understand how stars form. Dive in now and start classifying at www.milkywayproject.org – we need your help to map and measure our galaxy.

Zooniverse by Numbers: 2013 Edition

Each year around this time we like to take stock of the size of the awesome Zooniverse population of volunteers. Last year we celebrated the fact that there were 740,000 of you. That number has swelled to 890,000 now – despite us making it easier and easier for anyone to take part without signing up for a Zooniverse account! At the exact time of writing zooniverse.org reported 891,493 of you – which is actually a prime number . It’s also the colour code for a lovely shade of purple.

You’re based all over the world, in fact our web stats show that you literally come from every country in the world! However you are mostly located in the USA, UK, Canada, Poland and other Western nations. That means that you likely have quite a large combined carbon footprint. If you’re all typical North Americans then you produce about 20 tons of CO2 each every year. From some other nations if might be only about 5 tons. So collectively you’re producing somewhere between 4 and 18 million tons of CO2 each year. Crikey.

Never mind your carbon footprint – what about your actual dimensions as a group of people? It’s pretty hard to visualise that many people. If you all stood on each others shoulders you’d reach more than 1,500 km (~970 miles) into the sky. Of course then many of would be crushed under the community’s weight so instead let’s lie you end-to-end. At nearly 1,000 miles it would take light about 5 ms to travel along the line and it’s almost as far as the Proclaimers would be willing to walk to fall down at your door.

Sokol1924

More acrobatically, if we made you all into a human pyramid then you’d tower 1.3 miles above the surface of the Earth. If you we stacked you into an actual pyramid (square-based) then rather spectacularly you’d be about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza. In fact the Great Pyramid is a bit squat, so you’d have the same size footprint in the sand, but would be nearly twice as tall.

Kheops-Pyramid

We used to measure you by the number of stadiums that you would fill. At 890,000 you’re now much bigger than the world’s largest stadium, Rungnado May Day Stadium in North Korea, which can hold up to 150,000 people. You’d occupy almost 10 Wembley Stadiums, and more than 21 Wrigley Fields.

World religions is a potential way to measure you – though many are quite massive. There are literally billions of Christians, for example. There are, however, more Zooniverse volunteers in the world than Rastafarians or Unitarian Universalists. Though you can’t stand against the Vatican, there are several countries you measure up to. For example at 890,000 you outnumber the people of Cyprus (865,000), Fiji (858,000), and Montenegro (620,000). You’re miles ahead of some smaller nations, including Luxembourg (537,000), Malta (416,000), and Iceland (325,000).

THE-WORLD-FLAG

Of course, if you compare us to the armies of the world, things look much better for the Zooniverse. In fact there are only 5 armies larger than us – China (2.2 million), USA (1.4 million), India (1.3 million), North Korea (1.1 million), and Russia (1 million). Does all this mean that we need a flag?!

Finally, let’s get gross. 890,000 people is an awful lot. You collectively shed about 6 kg of skin cells every day. That’s 6 kg of material left to bob around in our atmosphere and to be vacuumed up from the world’s household surfaces. Nicely done, everybody.

I wonder what number I’l be calculating these stats for next year. I’m excited to find out!

[This post is part of the 2013 Zooniverse Advent Calendar]

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.

Our 2013 Advent Calendar Begins

It’s December 1st and that can mean only one thing at The Zooniverse: our advent calendar returns! It’s time for another citizen-science-fuelled, festive charge at the unsuspecting Christmas break for many around the world. 24 digital days of fun from us to you, our lovely, lovely volunteers! It’s a fun way of saying thank you each year. To kick things off, behind door 1 is is a bit of digital wallpaper for you: a pair of galaxies made from galaxies.

Galaxy from Galaxies

This lovely mosaic was created by Galaxy Zoo‘s Kyle Willett who was the lead author of this year’s mammoth Galaxy Zoo 2 paper. Whether it’s galaxies like these or science like this that bring you to the Zooniverse, we hope you enjoy what you find.

Have a fun December, and check back on zooniverse.org/advent to see what we have behind the door each day.

P-Project Updates and New Translations

The Zooniverse has passed a few notable milestones recently. Planet Four passed 4 million classifications, Planet Hunters passed 20 million, and Plankton Portal passed 250,000. All represent a lot of work done by all of you and we thank you for the effort you put in to these and all our projects. Should we be worried that they all begin with ‘P’?
Polish Plankton
To help more people access our projects we’ve been stepping up our efforts to translate the websites. You can now participate in Plankton Portal in both French and Polish (as well as English), and there are more languages on the way for this and other projects. We’re excited about this chance to spread word of the Zooniverse around the world.
Finally, don’t forget that you can follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Google+. (or all three!) to keep up with news and updates from the Zooniverse.
Happy November!

New Project: Plankton Portal

It’s always great to launch a new project! Plankton Portal allows you to explore the open ocean from the comfort of your own home. You can dive hundreds of feet deep, and observe the unperturbed ocean and the myriad animals that inhabit the earth’s last frontier.

Plankton Portal Screenshot

The goal of the site is to classify underwater images in order to study plankton. We’ve teamed up with researchers at the University of Miami and Oregon State University who want to understand the distribution and behaviour of plankton in the open ocean.

The site shows you one of millions of plankton images taken by the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS), a unique underwater robot engineered at the University of Miami. ISIIS operates as an ocean scanner that casts the shadow of tiny and transparent oceanic creatures onto a very high resolution digital sensor at very high frequency. So far, ISIIS has been used in several oceans around the world to detect the presence of larval fish, small crustaceans and jellyfish in ways never before possible. This new technology can help answer important questions ranging from how do plankton disperse, interact and survive in the marine environment, to predicting the physical and biological factors could influence the plankton community.

The dataset used for Plankton Portal comes a period of just three days in Fall 2010. In three days, they collected so much data that would take more than three years to analyze it themselves. That’s why they need your help! A computer will probably be able to tell the difference between major classes of organisms, such as a shrimp versus a jellyfish, but to distinguish different species within an order or family, that is still best done by the human eye.

If you want to help, you can visit http://www.planktonportal.org. A field guide is provided, and there is a simple tutorial. The science team will be on Plankton Portal Talk to answer any questions, and the project is also on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.