Citizen scientists making incredible discoveries
And now you can be the one to find it, thanks to Zooniverse, a unique citizen science website. Zooniverse volunteers, who call themselves "Zooites," are working on a project called Galaxy Zoo, classifying distant galaxies imaged by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
"Not only are people better than computers at detecting the subtleties that differentiate galaxies, they can do things computers can't do, like spot things that just look interesting," explains Zooniverse director Chris Lintott, an astronomer at the University of Oxford.
The Zooniverse and the suite of projects it contains is produced, maintained and developed by the Citizen Science Alliance. The member institutions of the CSA work with many academic and other partners around the world to produce projects that use the efforts and ability of volunteers to help scientists and researchers deal with the flood of data that confronts them.
The Zooniverse began with a single project, Galaxy Zoo, which was launched in July 2007. The Galaxy Zoo team had expected a fairly quiet life, but were overwhelmed and overawed by the response to the project. Once they'd recovered from their server buckling under the strain, they set about planning the future!
Zooniverse now offers several citizen science projects, including three more using NASA data. Moon Zoo volunteers use data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to count craters, helping write the history of the moon. Milky Way project participants scour infrared images gathered in two NASA Spitzer Space Telescope surveys of the Milky Way's inner regions. They help astronomers catalogue intriguing features, map our galaxy, and plan future research. Zooniverse's Planet Hunters are helping NASA's Kepler telescope find stars likely to host planets.