Huge Galactic Catalog Proves That Crowdsourcing Works

Thanks to the efforts of over 83,000 volunteer citizen scientists around the world participating in the Galaxy Zoo 2 project, the latest catalog of galaxy data is 10 times larger than any previous catalog of its kind.

What's the Latest Development?

The Galaxy Zoo 2 project, which invited the public to help examine and answer classification questions about images gathered from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, has resulted in the largest-ever catalog of galaxy data published to date, encompassing over 300,000 galaxies. More than 83,000 volunteers from around the world spent a little over a year eyeballing the images and noting such details as the presence and number of spiral bars. To guarantee accuracy, each of the images was classified an average of 40-45 times, for a total of more than 16 million unique classifications. The catalog was produced by the University of Minnesota and an international team of researchers.

What's the Big Idea?

The team estimates that the work that went into this catalog -- which is 10 times larger than any previously published catalog of its type -- represents the approximate equivalent of 30 years of work done by a single researcher. When volunteers were asked why they participated in the project, many answered that they liked contributing to science. There's more work ahead for them if they want it: While this catalog provides detail about galaxies as they are today, the next one will describe galaxies in the distant past. Interested citizen scientists can find out more at the Galaxy Zoo Web site.

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