Net surfers to create real "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxies"

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London, Feb 17 (ANI): Web users across the world are all set to write a real version of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxies", by working together to spot galaxies at par with professional astronomers.

The new initiative is a follow-up to the highly successful Galaxy Zoo project that enabled members of the public to take part in astronomy research online.

But whereas the original site only asked members of the public to say whether a galaxy was spiral or elliptical, and which way it was rotating, Galaxy Zoo 2 asks them to delve deeper into 250,000 of the brightest and best galaxies to search for the strange and unusual.

"The first Galaxy Zoo provided us with a Rough Guide to the sky and now we want our users to fill in all the details and create a real Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxies," said Dr Chris Lintott of Oxford University, one of the founders of Galaxy Zoo.

Astronomers came up with the idea of getting online volunteers involved because the human brain is still better at doing pattern recognition tasks than a computer.

What they had not expected was the huge enthusiasm for the project.

In the last 18 months, more than 150,000 armchair astronomers from all over the world submitted 80 million classifications of galaxies on one million objects at www.galaxyzoo.org.

According to Dr Kevin Schawinski of Yale University, another of Galaxy Zoo's founders, "The response from the public was absolutely overwhelming and, with their help, we've been able to learn a lot about how galaxies evolve and how they relate to their environment. With the detail from Zoo 2, we'll be able to discover even more about how galaxies work."

"Galaxy Zoo has given everyone with a computer an opportunity to contribute to real scientific research. We want people to feel truly involved in the project and keep them up to date with what we're doing and with the results they're generating," said Dr Steven Bamford of the University of Nottingham.

As with the original site, people are free to look at and describe as many galaxies as they like. Even five minutes' work will provide a valuable contribution.

According to Professor Bob Nichol of the University of Portsmouth, a member of the original Galaxy Zoo team, "No single professional astronomer has ever looked at all these images and sometimes astronomers miss the wonder of what they are. I think the public get this better than us." (ANI)

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