Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Yep, lots of people Zoo 2

Looks like we're in for another round of the overwhelming response we got when Galaxy Zoo 1 first launched. So much so that we're having to send people back to Galaxy Zoo 1 for the moment! ZookeeperKevin counted 473 new forum members yesterday evening. I've spent the last couple of days pointing people here and there and answering questions, some on the forum and some by e-mail, and hugely enjoying it - though after a few hours of finding that for every message I answer, two more have appeared in my inbox, I did feel the need to run away and hide for a couple of hours. People want to know many things, and fortunately this time I'm not thrashing around trying to find my own way around the forum or struggling with links and pictures.

People need to know some of the basics, such as how to post pictures and how to tell a star from a galaxy. The diffence is basically that a star is solid and a galaxy isn't. Stars often look like cherries or snowballs, or, if closer up, a solid screen of red or pink. At just the right distance, they make incredible pictures - and with light-scattering in the camera, even more so. Then there's how to tell a merger from an overlap. Mergers tend to be distorted and strange, with long arcs, drawn-out spiral arms, star trails, or just be plain weird like Galactic Animals. It's also common for new zooites to be awestruck by coincidental line-ups of galaxies, particularly in clusters, where they look like a shape or a constellation. Disappointingly, usually there's no interaction or special meaning. Cosmic coincidences turn up all the time . . .

Writing of cosmic coincidences and the Moon, solar eclipses are possible because the Sun is both 400 times the diameter of the Moon and 400 times further away, which means they appear precisely the same size in the sky. How's that for a coincidence? We notice them a lot in astronomy because there's so much out there. Our brains are very good at spotting patterns!

People also want to know where "My Galaxies" has gone. Many of our dedicated users have become very adept at using the SDSS pages to gather extra information, and are disappointed to lose it. Some are adding that no longer having access to this will make our results poorer, and even that they are now getting a dumbed-down version.

The rationale is that what SDSS tells us is what is already known! SDSS is not infallible; it sometimes labels galaxies as stars and vice versa; its redshift is not always correct, etc etc. But more to the point, visual data is the one thing computers really can't do. Seeing the SDSS image can seriously bias the results, so it's now being held back until the galaxy's classified. Then it'll appear in My Galaxies - which will be back soon . . .

Then we lost the biased images. That wasn't a good day for the Galactic Fishing Rod! Here's the picture it's supposed to have - I have worked out how to change the links now; you need to remove the www. and add "zoo1" just before the bit:

Click on the latter and I hope you'll laugh as much as we all did.

We've now been mentioned in an awful lot of blogs and astronomy news sites - thanks to the diligent people who keep posting new links! - but no newspapers seem to have taken us up yet. Is David Cameron really that interesting?

We're keeping you updated, though - keep checking the Galaxy Zoo Blog and also Galaxy Zoo's twitter feed. Oh, speaking of Twitter, I'm on it now - at least it's cheap cheap cheap (sorry) - and Will Gater has posted a very interesting video. It's the diamond ring effect shown in solar eclipses around the Moon - but this time it's the Earth's! Can anyone translate?

Anyway, if you're upset to lose My Galaxies and the SDSS link, or you can't get on to classifying at all, come along to the Newbies Thread to help and be helped out. Or come and chat in the Cafe. Or just succuumb to distractions while they last - once Zoo 2 is back, the galaxies will draw you in . . .

My distractions:

Classify. Miaow. Classify.


Georgia said...

Your distractions are soooo cute!! :-)
You are doing an awesome job on the forum! Don't forget to sleep and eat! (But not squirrel crisps.)

Alice said...

LOL, I'm not nutty enough to eat those, thanks Georgia! :D