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30,000 Volunteers Needed to Classify 1 Million Galaxies
Scientists call on public to help in cosmic project
Alex Argote (alexphil)     Print Article 
Published 2007-07-22 17:33 (KST)   
The human brain is still the best computer in the planet and when the universe needs help in sorting and classifying millions of distant galaxies out there, tens of thousands of people will needed to take care of the cosmic mess.

Every day a robotic telescope zooms in on the deepest reaches of space that can be viewed by the latest optical observation instrument and generates thousands upon thousands of yet unnamed galaxies. The celestial harvest is now so great and enormous that scientists want to enlist the public in scrutinizing the numerous images being automatically processed by the robotic telescope.

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Although scientists have written computer programs designed to classify galaxies as either elliptical, spiral, or merger, still they decided that the unduplicated human brain is the best logical computing unit to employ to help determine the present models of the universe.

Initially, scientists want to tap the potential of about 30,000 human-operated computers that are hooked to the worldwide internet in downloading and inspecting the images that come from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescope in New Mexico.

According to Kevin Schawinski, an astrophysicist at Oxford University who is a member of the team that started the project, the human brain is many times better than even the most powerful electronic computer especially in tricky pattern recognition tasks like galaxy type identification.

Since many celestial objects tend to come at various shapes, colors, and positions relative to an Earth observer, it is important to use logical but flexible observing units in collating the wealth of data that come from thousands of light years away.

Another member of the team, Dr. Chris Lintott, said, "Volunteers get to see parts of space that have never been seen by anyone else. The pictures were taken by a robotic telescope and automatically uploaded to a central server. If one logs in, he or she might be the first to view a galaxy that pops up on the screen."

Those aspiring astronomers who at least want to help in managing the universe can visit www.galaxyzoo.org where everyone will be invited to register to the site. But before anyone can sort out a cosmic object, the aspiring galactic manager must first pass a pattern recognition trial after going through a comprehensive tutorial in the various kinds of galaxies and images of stars.

Successful registrants are then fed image after colorful image of different of galaxies of varying sizes and coming from mind-blowing distances.

It's an enjoyable experience to get to know many types of galaxies out there. Those massive celestial groups can be classified as clockwise spiral, anti-clockwise spiral, elleptical or even some occasional mergers.

Log on now, help change the universe and be part of history.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alex Argote

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