SCIENCE

Citizen Scientists Classify Galaxies In Massive Crowdsourced Project, But Can You? (PHOTOS, QUIZ)

09/26/2013 08:31 am ET
Sloan Digital Sky Survey Collaboration

For every galaxy in the universe there's a classification. But with hundreds of billions of galaxies out there, it would be awfully difficult to label them all.

Well, unless you were to enlist thousands of volunteers from around the world. That's the thinking behind Galaxy Zoo 2, the second iteration of a massive catalog project that asks citizen scientists to classify galaxies.

From February 2009 to April 2010, more than 83,000 amateur scientists and astronomers sorted through Sloan Digital Sky Survey images and answered questions about certain aspects of each galaxy, such as its shape or number of spirals.

In all, volunteers classified 304,122 galaxies in the universe.

Launched in 2007, the online enterprise -- helmed by scientists from universities around the globe -- is akin to a census of the galaxies in the universe. By crowdsourcing the project, the team was able to drastically reduce the amount of time it would have taken researchers to sort through the database of images.

Last year, volunteers spotted a diverse array of shapes and figures in the galaxy images -- from letters of the alphabet to a penguin.

"With today's high-powered telescopes, we are gathering so many new images that astronomers just can't keep up with detailed classifications," research co-author Lucy Fortson, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota, said in a written statement. "We could never have produced a data catalog like this without crowdsourcing help from the public."

To participate in the latest classification project, click over to Galaxy Zoo's website. Or, try your hand at classifying galaxies below.

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