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Lauren Admire | 30 Nov 2009 21:00

Help Your Local Astronomer

Matching multiple pictures of cosmic collisions can be a long and thankless job. There are hundreds of thousands of galaxies in our universe alone, and matching all the photographs is a daunting task, and that's why astronomers want your help.

Using a website called Galaxy Zoo Mergers, users can play a game that closely resembles a Vegas slot machine, except instead of bars and pictures of fruit, there are photographs of galaxies and your job is to select amongst eight random images and see which one matches the cosmic collision in the middle. These photographs are taken from the Sloan Sky Digital Survey, an ambitious project which captured images of nearly 930,000 galaxies and 120,000 quasars. Studying these galactic mergers will help astronomers determine how galaxies form, and why they form in the certain shapes they do.

And how exactly does matching pictures of colliding galaxies help out astronomers? As researcher Chris Lintott puts it: "By randomly cycling through the millions of simulated possibilities and selecting only the very best matches, they are helping to build up a profile of what kinds of factors are necessary to create the galaxies we see in the universe around us - and hopefully, having fun, too."

In the past two years, over 250,000 users have played this cosmic slot machine and helped to classify many of the hundreds of thousands of galaxies captured on the site; some classifications have resulted in published research papers.

Source: Discover

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