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Surprising Science

New Game Helps NASA Catalog Galactic Clouds

Launched last week, the game, called Clouds, is the newest addition to the Milky Way Project and to Zooniverse, which is home to some of the largest online citizen science endeavors.

What’s the Latest Development?

Last week, Zooniverse launched a new online game called Clouds, which involves players reviewing images and data from NASA and the European Space Agency in order to distinguish between empty regions of space and the dense, cold cores of dust and gas known as infrared dark clouds. They are important to identify because new stars are formed from them, but they are especially hard to see. The game combines infrared observations from two different telescopes to reveal holes and clouds located throughout the Milky Way.

What’s the Big Idea?

Simply put, there’s only so much a camera and a computer can do, and Clouds, along with its companion game Bubbles, takes advantage of many human eyes and brains to sort through and catalog an immense amount of astronomical data. This is the overall goal of the Milky Way Project, and principal investigator Robert Simpson is excited to offer another chance for amateur astronomers to take part: “We think the community can blast through all these data fairly quickly. We may even be done by the spring and that would be an amazing result for citizen science.” 

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