Tag Archives: Galaxy Zoo

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.


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.

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.

One Teacher’s Zooniverse Experience


Today’s guest blogger Ricardo Pollo was a Zooniverse Teacher Ambassadors Workshop participant.  He is a teacher, sailor, and musician originally from Miami, FL. He has degrees in Environmental Studies and Sociology & Anthropology, and an MA in Comparative Sociology. He lives with his wonderful wife and amazing baby boy–in the house of their dreams–in Harwich, MA.

I first discovered Galaxy Zoo when I was a teacher in need. I was in my second year, and in a very challenging situation. I was responsible for 200 students, and I only had 90 minutes of planning time every other day, which I had to use to plan for three separate subjects. I bring this up because, back then, I simply did not have that much time to look for new and amazing ways to hook my students into our lessons.

I was teaching a course called earth/space science which, although burdened with a clunky name, was actually pretty great. The biggest problem was that about 80 percent of my students spoke English as a second language, and I needed something besides words to get them excited about our lessons. We had reached a section where we were learning about different types of galaxies, which lends itself to being wowed by. After all, I certainly was when I first learned how many of these things there were out there, and the baffling number of stars they contained. The textbook had relatively interesting pictures, but the treatment was pretty dry. So I did what I always did, and what I continue to do today: I went online and looked for lessons to loot!

In my piratical forays into the world of space education, I came across Galaxy Zoo. I think the keywords I typed were “galaxy classifications,” so it’s no wonder I stumbled across the site. But a “stumble” is not how I would have described it at the time. It shocked me like a peal of thunder on a quiet night, like the light that hits you when you leave a cave after hours of exploring in darkness. Sometimes I imagine what it would have been like to be alive during a cataclysmic meteor strike, calmly loafing on a hillside, staring at the clouds, when suddenly a giant, fiery boulder comes streaking through the atmosphere to lead us all into another geologic age. This is the effect Galaxy Zoo had on me back then, sitting in the staff room, with no other place to plan, and just trying to do something different with my kids.

The rest is honestly kind of anticlimactic. I logged on and classified a few galaxies, and fell in love, hard. I was really struck by the idea that I was looking at pictures that no one else had looked at before. It appealed to the same part of me that likes to pick up trash when I’m out for a walk in the woods: “Nobody’s gotten around to this one yet, I might as well do it.” But instead of keeping things tidy, I felt like I was helping other tired grad students (for I had been there) do something wonderful.

 I couldn’t wait to show my kids. I was so excited! The day came and I nonchalantly put the site up on the projector, and explained to them how it worked. These were pictures of actual galaxies, trillions and trillions of miles away, and we were helping scientists paint a picture of what was out there! The result was an astounding sigh. I couldn’t understand it really. This was absolutely, out of this world, cool. Why weren’t they getting into it? I know the answer now, of course. I stood up there, flipped through pictures, and showed them how to classify them. I showed them how it coincided with what we had just learned about the major types of galaxies. Then I let volunteers come up and touch the magic board themselves. Surprise, surprise, it wasn’t a huge hit.

At the time I thought it might be because some of the pictures were grainy, or maybe they weren’t really able to wrap their heads around the science. So I found another site, a collaboration between NASA and Microsoft, that was designed in part to categorize pictures sent back by Martian rovers. Here was a chance for them to see pictures of the Martian surface, and just look around. I especially loved the pictures that had a part of the rover in frame. And as a bonus, the whole site is very well designed, modeled after a combination computer game/space port. When that site didn’t go over well either, I started to think there might be something wrong with my kids. Since then, I’ve continued to use Zooniverse sites in my classes, particularly Snapshot Serengeti, Seafloor Explorer, and most recently, SpaceWarps. But I’ve always approached this as an added bonus, never as an integral part of our lesson. Some kids have responded really well to it, and I’ve heard quite a few stories of families getting into classifying together. But I never felt like I was using these websites very effectively. 

Obviously, I jumped on the chance to apply for the first Zooniverse Teacher Ambassadors Workshop. I was giddy when I found out I could go, and the experience was a remarkable one. But more than anything, I’m excited to have actual tools, not to mention tons of lesson plans, that I can use in my science classes. I wrote a plan myself, to use with the Whale.fm whale call classifying site, and I’m getting antsy to use it. Unfortunately, I don’t get to acoustics until April or May, so I’m definitely going to have to try someone else’s plan in the meantime. Lucky for me, the ZooTeach site is filled with great ideas and lessons to use. But really, I’m just thrilled that, after 5 years, that nagging feeling that this amazing tool was being totally underutilized, has finally left me. Good riddance!

Reaching Out With Skype Education

Are you looking to bring a unique experience to your classroom? Interested in citizen science and providing the opportunity for your students to talk to a research scientist?

Zooniverse education has been developing Skype in the Classroom lessons to reach classrooms around the world. Skype Education is a free resource for teachers looking to connect their students with educators, other classes, and experts across the globe. You can read more about the development of this program from our August 29th blog post.

Zooniverse will be testing a Skype in the Classroom lesson with about 5 classes between now and mid October. This lesson focuses on the Zooniverse project, Galaxy Zoo. Your students will learn about the role of classification in science and how it is used by Galaxy Zoo scientists. Dr. Karen Masters from the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation from the University of Portsmouth, UK will be our guest speaker. This lesson is best suited for students ages 11-16.

If you’re interested in participating in these test sessions please sign-up be interested either through the Skype in the Classroom or by filling out this Google form


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.


Galaxy Zoo: Hubble


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