If you have any interest in astronomy you probably already know about the various sky maps and images such as those from The Hubble Space Telescope, but did you realize that you can do actual graduate-level astronomical research by helping to identify and classify objects?
Well, you can, and you don’t even need to freeze your *** off in the high desert or after midnight in the cold, clear mid-Winter sky.
Surf along to Galaxy Zoo (http://www.galaxyzoo.org/classify) and see what I am referring to.
If you worked on the original Galaxy Zoo project begun in 2007 and didn’t find it challenging or “scientific” enough, be sure to look again because on February 17 the same organization started Galaxy Zoo 2.
The main difference in the current project is the amount of information you can provide about the images you view.
To begin with you decide if the image is smooth, has features, or is probably either a star or an artifact (something created by the optics or electronics, and not actually in the sky.)
You go on through a series of simple questions such as “Does the object have an odd feature?”, eventually classifying the object.
See http://www.galaxyzoo.org/how_to_take_part for details on how to classify images.
To keep things interesting users can even create an index of their favorite images.
The project, based at the University of Oxford in England, is working to classify 250,000 deep sky objects. According to a report in the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7899658.stm) and the early results show that, on average, visitors can be just as accurate as trained professional astronomers.
I would recommend this site not only to the frustrated amateur astronomer on cloudy nights but also for any organization working with kids, such as 4H or the Boy Scouts.
If you tried this site back in February when the new version launched and found that you couldn’t get on, that was probably due to the initial extremely heavy traffic – try again, I had no trouble logging on today.