Are you, like me, addicted to a daily checking of Astronomy Picture of the Day? It's always well worth a look, but today is extra special for the Zoo. A few days ago we were all rather intrigued that this nearly two-year-old topic consistently had about 70 visitors for well over 24 hours: back in January 2008, Kevin had invited us to nominate Galaxy Zoo pictures for APOD. In the end, we selected this picture, which has since been called "Rick's Mergers".
Rick, who's an expert on the peas and who swung me our Bristol lecture, had spent several days making it (here's his thorough description and credits). It's a composite of merging galaxies - the beautiful shapes formed when two or more galaxies come close enough to gravitationally disrupt each other and potentially collide. Third from the right at the bottom is called "The Mice" because of their long tails; the one above that has long been popularly known on the forum as "The Heron" or "The Crane". Kevin sent it off, but we didn't hear any more until the Voorwerp made APOD over the summer.
Anyway, after we'd made a few confused faces on the forum and asked each other if anyone knew why the topic was suddenly receiving so much attention, "RJN" - who I now realise must be Robert J. Nemiroff - told us he was thinking of using another of our pictures. The problem was that SDSS pictures do not have a high resolution, so lack the quality of (for example) Hubble. But we knew we could rise to that challenge, by creating a beautiful composite or imaginative picture, for example. Kevin wrote a blog post and created a thread for our submissions. I, like many others, leapt to the challenge, especially the "rollover image" he'd requested. Stellar, meanwhile, created this simple beauty:
RJN asked if Stellar's planetary nebula and its interior caption as a logo could be set in the bottom right of Rick's mergers, and here was the result:
And up it went today!
I'm so proud of both these creative people who I can call my friends: both very dedicated zooites, both of whom steered our community into special projects started by ourselves; without either of whom the forum would not be the same. Very many congratulations to both of you, and thanks to everyone else who contributed a possible picture. I hope that there will be many more - we have plenty of ideas, ranging from Alexandre's artwork to messages written in the Galactic Alphabet. Watch this space! And welcome aboard to those who've joined us as a result of this work.
Update, Tuesday 27th: Chris has just told us all that yesterday was the third most active day since the launch of Zoo 2. Whoopee!
Update II, Wednesday 28th: ± 1000 new people joined us on Monday - there was a huge backlog of classifications too. Zoonometer now reaches 44 million . . .