Saturday, 22 May 2010

Blowing the citizen science trumpet. Oh, all right, mine then

Will Gater, whose terrific and beautiful website I seriously recommend (and who also gave a very good lecture at Herstmonceux back in 2008), has written up a lovely collection of citizen science projects for the Sky at Night magazine.

It's a lovely collection, a small space dedicated to each one with little visual guides to what you'll need (in each case, a computer) and how much of your time it will take up (though I am astonished that Galaxy Zoo is given 2/5, meaning a relatively short time, rather than a massive highlighted DANGER ADDICTION warning!).

About half of them, I saw with pride, are bud-offs of our beloved Galaxy Zoo: the supernovae, the mergers, and so on. I won't list them all so as not to spoil Will's detailed work! But there are some projects I'd never even heard of: Globe at Night, for example, to map every area of sky that people live in for light pollution, and Be a Martian to map the red planet and whose description includes a wonderfully cartoon-like picture.

Will has also interviewed "the expert", i.e. Dr Chris Davis of Solar Stormwatch, and "the user", i.e. yours truly. I wish to highlight my personal achievement of taking that photo myself, by going outside and pointing my mobile in roughly the right direction! I enjoyed answering Will's excellent questions, but I think next time I might bossily step aside and suggest a zooite who classifies galaxies more than I do. Truth to tell, classifying is very much a sidelines thing for me nowadays - my job is looking after all the people who do - so I haven't got anything very interesting to say about my clicking!

In the meantime, it actually appears to be Interview the Zooite Week. Stellar recently did a terrific interview with Bill Keel for the Young Astronomers. Bill is one of the brightest shining stars on the Galaxy Zoo Forum: he is a professional astronomer, and also a real part of our community. His speciality is overlapping galaxies, like this pair:

Credit: SDSS, and recently studied by Bill at Kitt Peak observatory. Overlapping pairs of galaxies are in the same line of sight, but not close enough to merge with each other. They are highly useful to astronomers because the background one acts like a torch to the dust in the foreground one, allowing one to study more about what is going on in the galaxy besides the movement of its brightest stars. I think only a couple of overlapping pairs were known before the Zoo. Since Bill joined us, we've amassed over 600.

Anyway, did I mention it was the season for interviews? Look what Half65, the zoo forum's overlapping galaxy expert, has done. I love the yellow "ed" bits. Half65 is an absolutely adorable zooite, who also specialises in switching on his espresso machine and making everybody feel welcome.

This was definitely an exceptionally interesting set of questions to answer. Half knew just what is important to me and what would get me writing - in fact, for the first time, I had to be extremely careful about how to word some of my answers!

I myself recently interviewed six zookeepers (I'll direct you to the results when they come out), and got a lot of, shall we say, constructive feedback on what sort of questions I should ask. With Half, it appears to have come naturally. Perhaps he knows more about my work on the forum than I know about the zookeepers' work on galaxies, which is a little scary. Or perhaps he could give me some tips!

1 comment:

Half65 said...

Thanks Alice for your kindness.
The link about citizen science is really interesting.
I'm curious about zookeepers interview.