Galaxy Zoo opens
More than a million galaxies are contained within the Galaxy Zoo
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Who's next? As a certain legendary band once asked.
Wednesday, 11, Jul 2007 12:01
A new project aimed at harnessing the power of the human brain to help scientists classify galaxies has been launched.
The Galaxy Zoo a transatlantic scheme involving astronomers from Oxford University is an online census of more than a million galaxies; images of which have been captured digitally.
The project's organisers say that the input of members of the public is being sought as the human brain is "much better at recognising patterns" than any computer software.
It is hoped the census will shed light on how different kinds of galaxies are distributed across the sky and determine whether there is anything "fundamentally wrong" with existing galaxy models.
The pictures of the galaxies, most of which have never been seen by human eyes, were taken using the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico.
Oxford University astrophysicist Kevin Schawinski said the images would help scientists to understand the structure of the universe.
"It's not just for fun," he explained. "The human brain is actually better than a computer at pattern recognition tasks like this.
"Whether you spend five minutes, 15 minutes or five hours using the site your contribution will be invaluable."
Sir Patrick Moore, astronomer and presenter of the BBC's The Sky at Night, added: "Non-professionals have always been deeply involved in studying the sky and they now have yet another opportunity to make themselves really useful. Moreover, their help is now of immense value so do join up as I am doing myself."