Filling in the background

When we were putting together the original Galaxy Zoo site, almost as an afterthought, we added a link to the SDSS Sky Server, a background page of information on each and every galaxy compiled by the survey team. Sloan is special in astronomy because of its remarkably open data policy; rather than keep hold of the data for years or reserve specific parts of the science for those who’d spent large parts of their careers constructing, building and operating the survey telescope, after initial verification the data was released to the wider world. More importantly, they build a whole host of tools for astronomers to explore the data, ranging from Casjobs a service where one could submit database queries to tools to provide images.

The full SDSS Sky Server page for a galaxy from Galaxy Zoo 2
The full SDSS Sky Server page for a galaxy from Galaxy Zoo 2

The huge success of Sloan is, I think, partly down to this very open policy, but I don’t think anyone on the Galaxy Zoo team gave much thought to what would happen if we allowed Zooites to explore further. The only reference I can find in my early emails is from Anze, who points out, correctly, that it’s ‘quite a compelling procrastination tool…’. Rather than just fuelling happy procrastination, though, many classifiers, particularly those on the forum, have dived deeper into the data. Sometimes, these extra tools – now available for SDSS galaxies from the My Galaxies page – have just been used to provide context, but sometimes they have been used in detailed scientific investigations like those that led to the discovery of the peas and my new favourite object, Mitch’s ‘Mystery’ Star.

In many ways, I think that these stories – of professional astronomers and zooites pouring over the same data – fullfil the original goals of those who took such pains to make tools like Sky Server work. They’ve certainly become very important to us, as we begin to think about how to encourage more people to move from clicking to discussing what they’ve found (while still classifying, of course!). Just over a year ago, though, we realised that we were very dependent on what Sloan had already built. The latest incarnation of Galaxy Zoo mostly includes galaxies from large Hubble Space Telescope surveys. In some cases there is a lot of data available online, but it’s never as easy to find what you’re looking for as putting up a link to the Sloan Sky Server. As budgieye put it on the forum, “This was getting to be so much effort finding the galaxies, I was starting to feel like a grad student.” For other Zoos, further from our home in astrophysics, there may be nothing available at all.

Thanks to a generous grant from the US National Science Foundation, though, we can do something about this. As of yesterday, we have a full time programmer based at Adler Planetarium in Chicago devoted to solving this problem for Galaxy Zoo and for two forthcoming projects. His name is Michael Parrish, and he’s actually being working on the Zooniverse backend while at SIUE for the last year or so. Michael and I will be looking for suggestions as to what we he should work on – feel free to leave a comment here or on this forum thread. Do you want to be able to zoom in and out around interesting galaxies, or is knowing how far away they are more important? If spectra leave you cold, what sort of interface would help you explore them? All suggestions welcome – and in the meantime, you should start seeing changes pretty quickly as we try and open up as much of the data to as many Zooites as possible.

Chris

Advertisements

Astronomy Photographer of the Year Guest Gallery

Hey all

Just a quick heads up to advertise a great project run by Greenwich Royal Observatory. The astronomy photographer of the year competition invites members of the public to submit their images of the night sky.

This year they are asking guest astronomers to curate flicker galleries of their favourite entries and have asked me to take part this month. You can find my gallery and links to the flicker pool at here. I cant heap enough praise on the entries, pretty much all of the images are simply stunning and it was a hard job to pick just 18!

Enjoy

Stuart

Galaxy Zoo: Hubble

24_lg_web

The Galaxy Zoo project has evolved once again – now we are classifying galaxies from the incredible Hubble Space Telescope! Galaxy Zoo: Hubble is the new incarnation of the Galaxy Zoo project and it continues to allow you to help astronomers with real scientific research by asking you to to visually classify galaxies online.

The original Galaxy Zoo and Galaxy Zoo 2 both used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and recently, after reaching 60,000,000 classifications those projects began to wind down. This means that Galaxy Zoo: Hubble launches today, for the 20th anniversary of the space telescope. Images of galaxies taken using the legendary space telescope are there for everyone to classify and I recommend that you go and do just that.

Check it out or read more about it on the Galaxy Zoo blog

Hard Workers

We keep track of the activity in the Zooniverse using Google Analytics. There is a lot to keep up with and Analytics does a very good job. Well we like it anyway. I was looking through the stats today and came across an unusual fact: Leicester, a city here in the UK, is the hardest working place in the Zooniverse. No offense to Leicester, but this shocked me.

I’m defining hardest working to mean the most time put into classifying and engaging with the Zooniverse – per user. So in Leicester, users have put in an average of 6.0 hours each since February 2009. There are about 150 Zooniverse users in Leicester and they have put in a whopping 900 hours between them. That is dedication! I’m also assuming that time spent on the site is roughly proportional to time spent actually classifying, merging, etc. I hope so anyway!

So how does the rest of the world compare? Well I’m glad you asked. Here’s the top ten hardest working cities in the Zooniverse:

  1. Leicester (6.0 hours)
  2. Gdansk (4.6 hours)
  3. Auckland (4.0 hours)
  4. Los Angeles (3.8 hours)
  5. Southampton (3.8 hours)
  6. Indianapolis (3.6 hours)
  7. Poznan (3.2 hours)
  8. Minneapolis (3.2 hours)
  9. Denver (3.1 hours)
  10. Helsinki (2.9 hours)

As you can see, Leicester is miles ahead of the crowd. If you know why this might be, please let me know! The top 50 cities are shown in the graph below – there are 10,000 in all. It is interesting to note that the chart really levels off for the most part. It then heads into a steady long-tail. This seems to show that the vast majority of users, regardless of geographic location, have put in just under 2 hours each since February 2009.

HardestWorkingCities

So the natural next step here is to find out which country is hardest working. Apparently it is New Zealand, where Zooniverse users have spent an average of 3.6 hours each working on the site since February 2009. The graph for the Top 50 countries is shown below and reveals the countries where users spend, on average, the most time on the Zooniverse. New Zealand, Portugal and Australia make up the top three. In fact it seems that antipodean users generally spend more time on the site – again, please tell me why.

HardestWorkingCountries

Well that’s my extended coffee break over. If you have specific questions about the stats on the Zooniverse, drop a comment here and we’ll see if we can try and resolve them for you. Have a good week.

Introducing Stuart

So after three non-stop hectic weeks, nestled away in the heart of Oxford, learning everything Zooniverse, I think its about time to introduce myself to the community. My name is Stuart and I am a new postdoc on the Zooniverse project.

If that sounded like the opening line of someone on a course for addiction then I suppose its apt. After only a short time in the company of the team I am hooked on the Zooniverse, citizen science and all the wonderful people who make it happen (you!!).

Before moving to Oxford I lived for about 10 years up in the beautiful city of Edinburgh.  Originally coming from near Glasgow it seems like a much smaller move than the one I have just made to Oxford, but being much younger it was a huge deal for me. Thankfully Edinburgh welcomed me with open arms and became the backdrop for my undergraduate degree in Mathematical Physics and then my PHD in Astrophysics at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

sloanbutterfly

My research there focused on the large scale structure of the Universe ( a statement which I always feel is a grosse understatement) and the cosmic web that galaxies form. I made computers models of large chunks of the Universe to try to understand what was going on and what role the mysterious dark matter and dark energy have to play.

I also developed another interest at Edinburgh, one which in no small part has led me to my current position. The unsettling realisation, about one week in to my degree, that without a part-time job I was destined to be skint for 5 years, led me to start working as a science communicator at the ROE visitors center talking to the public about science. It quickly became a passion for me and one that I pursue eagerly at every chance I get (though I tend not to get paid for it anymore). As far as I can see the best way for people to learn more about science is to get involved and so when I saw the job advert for galaxy zoo I jumped at the chance to join the team! The rest, as they say, is history!

I have just undergone an intensive galaxy zoo boot camp, delivered by our very own computational drill sergeant Arfon. A fresh graduate I am currently cutting my teeth making some improvements to the Supernovae zoo, in preparation for the flood of data we expect to start coming in from the survey scientists any week now. I am also slowly making contacts to a number of people working to turn the classifications you have so kindly made in to science papers and cant wait to get involved in some of those projects.

So now you know a little about me and I look forward to getting to know the community a lot better over the next few years.

p.s in an absolutely shameless plug I also occasionally blog about research papers over at weareallinthegutter along with some fellow young astronomers.

Introducing Robert Simpson

Have you noticed that the Zooniverse has been expanding recently? Well it has. Two new postdoctoral researchers joined the team at Oxford in March. I am one of them, so I thought I’d introduce myself. My name is Robert Simpson and I most recently hail from Cardiff, where I’ve been studying for my PhD in star formation.

These past two weeks have been very busy and included a Zooniverse Boot Camp as well as an education in the complex underpinnings of the Zooniverse coffee machine (that required some note-taking itself!). My new position – postdoctoral researcher in citizen science – involves both research using the data that comes from the various Zoos, and the development of existing and new projects. Galaxy Zoo, Solar Stormwatch, Mergers, Supernovae and Moon Zoo present a broad range of astronomical and technical challenges. I’m keen to get going.

I’m also a social-media-kind-of-guy. I have been known to tweet with the best of them (you can find me @orbitingfrog). As such, I’m hoping to to get to know the Zooniverse blog community a lot better, as well as delving into some other social media arenas.

Rho Ophiuchus Star Forming Region

My background is in far-infrared and submillimetre observations of star-forming regions within our our galaxy. The image on this page is of the Rho Ophiuchus star-forming region, a nearby cloud complex and the subject my PhD thesis. My thesis was on the evolution of prestellar cores, objects that may be about to collapse and form protostars. The beautiful images that showcase the regions I study are part of why many people love astronomy. Like the wonderful galaxy images used in Galaxy Zoo, they are inspiring and literally awesome. If you’d like to explore our own beautiful galaxy, I suggest checking out Chromoscope, a multi-wavelength Milky Way explorer.

You’ll hear from me again soon enough, but in the meantime keep clicking, classifying, storm-watching and merging. Your work is taken very seriously here at Oxford. It allows Zooniverse researchers to learn more about our amazing cosmos and to share it with everybody. There is so much to learn that myself, and fellow newbie Stuart Lynn, aren’t quite sure where to start. Maybe a coffee will help… where are my notes?

Citizen Basketball

I’ve been working closely with Zookeeper Geza recently, to figure out how to provide better support for those of you who are doing your own research in addition to classifying galaxies. (Stay tuned for more on that.) In addition to being the awesome, Geza has a wonderful analogy for what we are all working together to do. I’d like to share that analogy with you in story form. A few years ago, I joined a twice-weekly lunchtime basketball game with some of the science faculty at the Hopkins Gym.

Continue reading Citizen Basketball

User accounts migration

This morning we made some major changes to the way you manage your account with Galaxy Zoo and the Zooniverse. Previously all account management (e.g. changing your email address) was done through the Galaxy Zoo site however the changes that we made this morning have moved those pages to the Zooniverse Home.

From the Zooniverse you can now manage your profile for both the projects (such as Galaxy Zoo) and also any of the Zooniverse forums. I’ve recorded a quick screencast demonstrating the changes here.

As part of the update today we also upgraded the Galaxy Zoo forum to the latest (and greatest) version of SMF. The changes we made today were made possible by the hard work of the whole Zooniverse developer team, in particular Jarod Luebbert and Pamela Gay – thanks for your help guys!

We hope you like the changes!

Cheers
Arfon