By Lizz Giordano
Citizen scientists are leading astronomers to new clues about star formation.
Citizen scientist volunteers discovered the more than 900 mysterious bright yellow objects that became the subject of recent paper in the Astrophysical Journal.
According to Adler Planetarium astronomer Grace Wolf-Chase, these yellow balls are missing links between the cold, dusty clouds that give birth to stars and the extremely hot bubbles that form as massive young stars sculpt their environments. Citizen scientists made nearly 1.5 million classifications for the Milky Way Project, helping astronomers study and map star formation within the galaxy.
Zooniverse researcher and developer Stuart Lynn notes the collaboration between citizen scientists and scientists is not new.
“[Frederick William] Hershel, who was a very famous astronomer, use to collaborate with this massive network of amateur astronomers and professional astronomers to take readings of the heavens,” Lynn said. “This mass collaboration of science is actually quite old idea.”
Today the Internet makes participating even easier.
“Before you would have gone out with binoculars to count birds or gone out to look at the heavens with a telescope,” Lynn said. “Today citizen scientist can take part simply by logging onto a website and contributing some of their time to analyze data that has already been collected by scientists.”
The Milky Way Project is just one of many citizen science projects found on the website Zooniverse. Zooniverse is a collaboration led by the Adler Planetarium and University of Oxford and has engaged more than 1.2 million volunteers.