Public petitioned to map galaxies
Scientists want volunteers to help unlock the secrets of the Universe.
Astraeus - a new citizen science project launched this week - needs members of the public to study images of galaxies and figure out which light is coming from which galaxy.
Astrophysicist Dr Luke Davies is one of the leaders of WAVES - the Wide Area Vista ExtraGalactic Survey - a million-dollar international project and the biggest spectroscopic galaxy evolution survey ever undertaken.
WAVES needs to accurately measure the light coming from millions of galaxies.
“We use sophisticated computer algorithms to make sense of where the light is coming from in these crowded regions,” Dr Davies said.
“But the computer often gets it wrong. It’s simply no match for the human eye and brain.”
Dr Davies said professional astronomers have previously looked through all the galaxies and fixed the computer’s mistakes.
“But as more and more galaxies are surveyed, there simply aren’t enough people on our team to do it,” he said.
AstroQuest asks volunteers to take over from professional astronomers and check the computer’s work, and where the computer has gotten it wrong, volunteers are asked to fix it by painting over the galaxies and drawing in where they are.
There are also game features to AstroQuest, including leaderboards, quests and achievements.
Dr Davies said knowing the amount of light that comes from a galaxy can tell us things like how many stars the galaxy currently has, how many stars it is churning out and how much dust is in it.
“If you map out millions of galaxies and measure all of their properties you can actually see how galaxies change as the Universe gets older. You can then explore how things like where a galaxy lives in the Universe and if it’s crashing into other galaxies affect how it evolves with time,” he says.
Anyone can register to join at astroquest.net.au