Milky Way – new Zooniverse site

Do you want to explore the Milky Way? Now you can do that while at the same time helping astronomers with their research. The Milky Way project aims to sort and measure our galaxy, the Milky Way, by examining infrared images taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.  You can help by looking at the images online and marking things that you can see. You do not need any subject knowledge or specialist equipment – all you need to do is to go to the Milky Way website.

At the website you will find information about the project and a tutorial which will tell you what you should be looking for and how you mark what you have found. When you are ready to start exploring and marking things, you log into your account and an image will be shown to you. If you have registered for any other Zooniverse project (like Galaxy Zoo or Old Weather) you use the same login. If you do not already have an account, you quickly create one by choosing a name and password.

Understanding the cold, dusty material that we see in these images, helps scientists to learn how stars form and how our galaxy changes and evolves with time.

The Milky Way is the latest in the Zooniverse series of projects where the the public is invited to take part in scientific work. The first of these citizen science initiatives was Galaxy Zoo, a project where participants classified galaxies (see ‘Learning from Galaxy Zoo’ – presentations by Zooniverse director Chris Lintott at RunCoCo workshops) . The project became a great success and has since been followed by others, for example Moon Zoo and Solar Stormwatch. Old Weather is another recent Zooniverse project with a slightly different angle. Instead of looking at images from space, Old Weather participants examine logs from Royal Navy ships from around the time of World War I and record the date, location, weather and other observations.

The Zooniverse projects bring together over 350,000 citizen scientists from all over the world. In addition to the websites used for collecting data, the projects offer a range of support material and options for interaction and participation. The project blogs discuss issues that have come up and show-case interesting findings. Participants can discuss the project, ask question and offer advice via the forum. It is, however, not only on the website that scientists and citizen scientists work together. A number of academic articles have been published with citizen scientists as co-authors, motivated by the discoveries they made or the input they have had on the research process leading up to the new findings.

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