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article image'Citizen Scientists' writing the history of the universe

By Vincent Sobotka     Apr 26, 2011 in Science
Scientists of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have created what they've metaphorically depicted as a universe of astronomy enthusiasts to relieve them from an overwhelming task - identifying events occuring in the actual universe.
Zooniverse is the clever name given to this increasing group of volunteers who sift through images taken from NASA's powerful telescopes and orbiters, constantly photographing and computing data that researchers expect to transpire a fragment of predictability within the everchanging great unknown that is the universe within which we exist.
There are certainly no arguable theories behind the creation of the Zooniverse and its helpful "Zooites", a name proudly claimed by the citizens who volunteer their time and effort to space observation, otherwise known as citizen scientists. NASA Scientists and professional astronomers are bogged down with hundreds-of-thousands, or even millions of images that need to be classified by particular features. It is certainly work which can be completed much quicker with the help of computers, but only if those computers know exactly what they're looking for.
Dauna Coulter, a fellow Zooite, writes about the creation of the Zooniverse and its purpose in her recent article "Citizen Scientists Making Incredible Discoveries" published on NASA's website as science news.
In her article, Coulter explains the origin of the Zooniverse. Chris Lintott, an astronomer at the University of Oxford, was burdened with the the task of classifying over one-million images of galaxies around the universe, so he delegated the project to one of his young pupils. After some time, though, it became obvious to the pair that an end to their assignment was hopelessly out of sight. According to Coulter's accounts, Lintott and his pupil attended a local pub, where the implied combination of anxiety, stress and alcohol triggered Lintott's thought process, which led to his vocally expressed though that planted the seed that sprouted Zooniverse, "Why not ask for volunteers?"
Coulter also provides real stories of citizen scientists making incredible discoveries since the Zooniverse first launched with a single mission, Galaxy Zoo.
Now with large numbers of Zooites of many backgrounds and many associations, the Zooniverse has amassed eight different space-monitoring projects.
The Zooniverse is now maintained in association with the member institution of the Citizen Science Alliance (CSA).
More about zooniverse, Galaxy zoo, Hubble space telescope, moon zoo, Lunar reconnaissance orbiter
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