The Zooniverse team has, over the last five years or so, shown signs of growing uncontrollably like some sort of bacterial colony that requires feeding with grant money. The job we’ve just advertised (at Adler Planetarium) might, though, be the most important yet. As those who are eager followers of this blog will know, we’re currently working hard on rebuilding the Zooniverse platform so that it can support many more projects.
If the Zooniverse can get to the point where we’re no longer constrained by the number of projects that can be built, we will need to think about how projects get chosen to appear on the Zooniverse, and about who should make that decision. Our opinion is that you – our community – should be more involved, and to work out how to make that happen we’re looking for what we’re calling a ‘community builder’. As you’ll see from the job description, this isn’t a technical post, but rather we’re looking for someone who knows how to build a community that is capable of awesome things. If that sounds like you, please get in touch.
PS The post is funded by a new grant from our friends at the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, to whom we’re eternally* grateful.
* – or as near as we can make it
Gravitational lenses – or ‘space warps’ – are created when massive galaxies cause light to bend around them such that they act rather like giant lenses in space. By looking through data that has never been seen by human eyes, our new Space Warps project is asking citizen scientists to help discover some of these incredibly rare objects. We need your help to spot these chance-alignments of galaxies in a huge survey of the night sky. To take part visit www.spacewarps.org.
Gravitational lenses help us to answer all kinds of questions about galaxies, including how many very low mass stars such as brown dwarfs – which aren’t bright enough to detect directly in many observations – are lurking in distant galaxies. The Zooniverse has always been about connecting people with the biggest questions and now, with Space Warps, we’re taking our first trip to the early Universe. We’re excited to let people be the first to see some of the rarest astronomical objects of all!
The Space Warps project is a lens discovery engine. Joining the search is easy: when you visit the website you are given examples of what space warps look like and are shown how to mark potential candidates on each image. The first set of images to be inspected in this project is from the CFHT (Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope) legacy survey.
Computer algorithms have already scanned the images, but there are likely to be many more space warps that the algorithms have missed. We think that only with human help will we find them all. Realistic simulated lenses are dropped into some images to help you learn how to spot them, and reassure you that you’re on the right track. Previous studies have shown that the human brain is better at identifying complex lenses than computers are, and we know at the Zooniverse that members of the public can be at least as good at spotting astronomical objects as experts! We’re going to use the data from citizen scientists to continuously train computers to become better space warp spotters.
This is a really exciting project and you can read more on the Space Warps blog. As with our other projects it can also be found on Twitter (@SpaceWarps), on Facebook and you can discuss any interesting objects you find on Space Warps Talk. We’re really excited about this project and think you’ll be able to make some amazing discoveries through it.
In the first of a new series of audio blog entires, Chris Lintott chats about some current goings on in the Zooniverse. In this edition, Chris talks about Aida’s Green Blob (click here to see the discussion on the Galaxy Zoo Forum) with Bill Keel. You can see the image they are talking about below:
You can either listen using the player above, or by grabbing this link to the MP3 file.
We are pleased to announce the debut of (another!) new Zooniverse project: Planet Hunters! This time we want you to help us find planets around other stars (exoplanets) using data from NASA’s Kepler mission.
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft is one of the most powerful tools in the hunt for extrasolar planets. The Kepler data set is unprecedented and has incredible photometric precision. Before Kepler, the only star monitored this precisely was our own Sun. The lightcurves reveal subtle variability that has never before been documented. Kepler lightcurves are were made publicly available with the first data release this past June and the next release scheduled for February 2011. We are very excited here at Planet Hunters to get our hands on them!
The Kepler Team computers are sifting through the data, but we at Planet Hunters are betting that there will be planets which can only be found via the remarkable human ability for pattern recognition. This is a gamble, a bet, if you will, on the ability of humans to beat machines just occasionally. It may be that no new planets are found or that computers have the job down to a fine art. That’s ok. For science to progress sometimes we have to do experiments, and although it may not seem like it at the time negative results are as valuable as positive ones. Most of the lightcurves will be flat, devoid of transit signals but it’s possible that you might be the first to know that a star somewhere out there in the Milky Way has a companion, just as our Sun does.
Fancy giving it a try? If you do, you could be the first to spot an new planet – it may be a Jupiter-size behemoth or even an Earth-sized rock. If you want to take part in our amazing experiment you’ll be playing with cutting-edge web technology. You’ll need one of the most modern browsers around (Safari, Chrome, Firefox or Opera) and you’ll need an up-to-date version if possible. We are testing the limits of citizen science on the web and hope that you’ll come along for the ride. We hope to bring support for older browsers in early 2011.
So, come join our adventure and log on to Planet Hunters now!
No spacesuit or rocket ship is required! Moon Zoo allows you to explore the Moon’s surface in unprecedented detail – and help scientists along the way. New high-resolution images, taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), offer exciting clues to unveil or reveal the history of the moon and our solar system. You can help us to organise and understand these images.
“We need Web users around the world to help us interpret these stunning new images of the lunar surface,” said Chris Lintott of Oxford University and chair of the Citizen Science Alliance. “If you only spend five minutes on the site counting craters you’ll be making a valuable contribution to science and, who knows, you might run across a Russian spacecraft.”
Scientists are particularly interested in knowing how many craters appear in a particular region of the moon in order to determine the age and depth of the lunar surface (regolith). Fresh craters left by recent impacts provide clues about the potential risks from meteor strikes on the moon and on Earth.
“We hope to address key questions about the impact bombardment history of the moon and discover sites of geological interest that have never been seen before,” said Katherine Joy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and a Moon Zoo science team member.
So go and start exploring the Moon! Take a look at the tutorial to learn how it works and then begin getting up-close an personal with our closest astronomical neighbour.
For more information about Moon Zoo, visit: http://www.moonzoo.org. For more information about the NASA Lunar Science Institute, visit: http://www.lunarscience.nasa.gov. For more information about LRO and LROC, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/lro and http://www.lroc.sese.asu.edu/