How to classify galaxies

July 24, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

This is very cool and for the amateur astronomers amongst us. You can participate in a new web-based galaxy classification system called Galaxy Zoo and help to classify one million galaxies. Involving the public will help speed up the classification process. I’ve already done my tutorial and passed the galaxy classification test, so am on my way to helping out.

The human brain being better at pattern recognition than a computer, the project will help to confirm whether all galaxies are rotating in agreement with each other (known as the Axis of Evil) or not. After a quick tutorial, you can start identifying the type of galaxy (spiral or elliptical); classify the direction of rotation for the spirals (clockwise or anti-clockwise); and check out whether galaxies are merging. Astronomers often get caught up in the detail, whereas the amateur might be quicker to spot a pattern or classify by gut instinct. Many of the digital images have never been seen before and were taken using the robotic Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico.

The Galaxy Zoo project is harnessing the Wisdom of Crowds : large groups of people collectively make smarter decisions than an elite few. Check out Galaxy Zoo and see if you would classify the galaxy image accompanying this post as spiral or elliptical (I pinched the photo from Galaxy Zoo).

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Entry filed under: Astronomy, Galaxies, Space, Useful resources.

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