June 21, 2016 AT 1:30 am

How Citizen Scientists Found a Rare Galaxy Cluster #CitizenScience


There is big excitement in the space world as two citizen scientists have discovered a huge galaxy cluster according to Phys.org. It came from the volunteers’ work on Radio Galaxy Zoo, a site that encourages people to match radio images and infrared images of space to coordinate jets of material caused by black holes with their matching galaxies. Apparently I’m not the only one that is amazed.

The discovery surprised the astronomers running the program, said the lead author of the study Dr Julie Banfield of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) at The Australian National University (ANU).

“They found something that none of us had even thought would be possible,” said Dr Banfield.

Not only is this a great find, but the data on Radio Galaxy Zoo is almost 60% complete thanks to help coming from around the world.

More than 10,000 volunteers have joined in with Radio Galaxy Zoo, classifying over 1.6 million images from NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope and the NRAO Very Large Array in New Mexico, USA.

The volunteer scientists have landed quite the honor with this galaxy cluster now holding their names—Matorny-Terentev Cluster RGZ-CL J0823.2+0333. The galaxy cluster has also earned a special new classification due to its C shape, which is now called a wide angle tail (WAT) radio galaxy. Here’s a mock-up of the jet streams.

I don’t think I’ve heard this much hoopla since SETI (Search for Extraterrestial Intelligence) back in the day and I can only imagine how excited these two volunteers must be at their discovery. This is a great case for the benefits of citizen science, especially since we are amassing so much data. Skeptics will argue that training citizens can never replace scientists, which may be true. However, having many sets of eyes may actually get the job done. Certainly scientists will always be needed to set the projects in motion and to confirm the results, and I think that is what gives me so much hope. Despite the many ways people are at odds in the world right now, science is getting it right and bringing people together. So, how can you be part of the great unknown? Put together our Pinhole Planetarium Kit by Gakken so you can learn about the stars as they are projected in the comfort of your home. Then, join Radio Galaxy Zoo and train to find galaxies on your own. Everyone can be a star!


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