Category Archives: News

Project Update

MWP-Poster-Small

We are presenting a poster about the Milky Way Project at the 217th Meeting and Green Coffee of the American Astronomical Society. This gives us a great opportunity to outline the current status of the project. You can download the poster as either a PDF (2.5 MB) or a big JPEG (14 MB).

During the first four weeks of the project, 10,000 volunteers drew more than 385,000 bubbles, galaxies, clusters and other objects using the site. Volunteers measure the location, diameter, eccentricity and thickness of bubbles, as well as marking any gaps in the bubble’s structure. For other objects, just the location and approximate angular size are recorded.

The public’s individual drawings of objects, such as bubbles, are combined and grouped to produce ‘clean’ catalogues. When the project is complete, both the original and cleaned catalogues will be made public.  At present there are over 100,000 individual bubble drawings, which reduce down to about 60,000 when cleaned. If we consider only those instances where more than 3 individuals agreed that a bubble was present, we have found approximately 5,000 bubbles.

Similarly, after cleaning the data, we have found over 1,000 infrared dark clouds, 596 compact bubbles, 65 star clusters and 5 galaxies.

I’m glad to say that since printing the poster the numbers have already changed – this is because the site continues to have over a thousand images processed each day. We’re now at nearly 115,000 bubbles drawn and 91,000 images served. Check out the main site for the latest figures.

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Site Goes Live

example

Today we have launched The Milky Way Project. The Milky Way Project aims to sort and measure our galaxy. Initially we’re asking you to help us find and draw bubbles in beautiful infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. 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.

As well as drawing out bubbles in our galaxy, we’re also asking you to mark other objects such as star clusters, galaxies and ghostly red ‘fuzzy’ objects. We’re asking you to help us map star formation in our galaxy! Take a look at our tutorial page for the complete run down, with examples.

Interface

Also launching today is the Zooniverse’s new collaboration and community tool: Talk. Milky Way Talk resides at http://talk.milkywayproject.org and there you can find, collect and comment on the objects you see in the Milky Way Project. Every time you classify an image in the Milky Way Project you will be prompted to ‘discuss’ that image via Talk. Talk lets you collect objects together and shares those collections with everybody else. Talk is a brand new feature, developed in-house at Zooniverse HQ. It continues to evolve and change as you use it and we hope that through the Milky Way Project, we can make Talk even better.

Collection in Talk

Don’t forget, you can find us on twitter @milkywayproj and we hope to see you soon on Milky Way Talk!

The Milky Way Project

So after adding in a third entry a couple of days ago, it rapidly ran ahead of the pack on the last day of voting. We had more votes on the final day than in all the time leading up to the decision. But we have a name: The Milky Way Project. Stellar Zoo was a close second, and both beat Milky Way Zoo by some way.

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Over the next few days, this blog will change from ‘Project IX’ to ‘The Milky Way Project’. We have a new twitter feed @milkywayproj and eventually the URL for this blog will also change. I’ll give plenty of warning about that.

The following two weeks involve a big code push here in Oxford, to try and create a beta site for you to try out. There will be more updates soon with a sample of the first science interface on its way…

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Introduction

Star formation is one of the most important processes at work in the cosmos. The atoms that make up our planet and ourselves were made in the centres of stars, billions of year ago. To study star formation is to begin to understand the origin and make-up of the Galaxy and the Universe at large.

The mass distribution of stars and the rate at which they are born determines the nature and evolution of galaxies, such as our own Milky Way Galaxy. To understand many aspects of galaxy evolution, planet formation and cosmology, an understanding of star formation is required. It is one of the most fundamental mechanisms at work in the Universe.

Here at Zooniverse HQ we’ve been looking at how to get involved with the study of star formation for a while now. This is, in no small part, due to the fact that three of us at Zooniverse HQ have a background in star formation research. Chris Lintott, Arfon Smith and myself have all worked in this field and thus have been keen to make this project a reality for some time.

Project 9 is going to be the first Zooniverse contribution to the field of star formation. Project 9 is also going to be the first Zooniverse project to crowd-source more than just the science. We’d like to get opinion and feedback from the Zooniverse community as we develop the project.

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Image Credit: NASA/JPLCaltech/K. Gordon (University of Arizona)

Project 9 will be using data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, one of the most successful science missions ever put in orbit (which took the stunning image of the Andromeda Galaxy seen above). We’ve been working with the people behind the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (GLIMPSE). We think that you all may be able to help us classify some of the structures seen in this data – but more on that in a future post.

Stars form within dark clouds of gas (predominantly hydrogen and helium) and dust (larger molecules that have collected together into grains). They are dark because they absorb visible light. The dust in these star-forming regions absorbs visible light, and reemits it at infrared wavelengths. The result is that if you want to look for stars in the making, you must look in the infrared. The Earth’s atmosphere absorbs infrared light, so to search for star-forming regions you need to use a space-based infrared telescope – like Spitzer.

eagle

Infrared images of star-forming regions are often beautiful – you can browse a version of the GLIMPSE data via this link. We have been toying with different colour stretches for the GLIMPSE data to use for Project 9. Amongst the plethora of gorgeous images – from just a small part of the sky – I came across a familiar object: the Eagle Nebula (above). I thought this would give you an idea of the sort of images Project 9 will be asking everybody to help dissect and classify.

We’re looking forward to getting this project off the ground and will be blogging shortly with more details.

Coming Soon…

The ninth Zooniverse project is underway and this time we’re going to get you all involved from the very beginning. In the coming days and weeks we will begin blogging about a whole new Zoo – and you can help!

bubble

We’ll be looking to enlist everybody’s help to get this latest project off the ground so stay tuned to this blog for updates.