Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Answer: To the Universe - And Beyond

I haven't traveled from home much lately, but my drive to explore must be satisfied. So I decided to spend some time on Galaxy Zoo, which I first found out about from an astrophysicist at CalTech. This is just the most far-out traveling I have ever done, visiting the ever-expanding edges of the known universe.

Galaxy Zoo is an on-line science web site started back in 2007. Astrophysicists were literally drowning in data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and later the Hubble space telescope survey. What to do? Why, use the internet to solve the problem and invite volunteers from the general public to classify the deep space objects. According to a member of the team behind the project, Kevin Schawinski, "The human brain is actually much better than a computer at these pattern-recognition tasks."

Sounded like fun to me. I ran through the on-line tutorial, explored and classified some galaxies, then promptly forgot about it for 3 years. But after my last astronomy club meeting, I was reinspired to visit "The Zoo" again. And I can't believe what I found! This image is pretty exciting stuff. All my amateur astronomy friends have never seen anything like it before. It may be the result of galaxies colliding sometime in the far past. I've forwarded the image on to some researchers. We'll see if anything interesting comes of it.

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