University of Texas astronomers seek help identifying galaxies
University of Texas astronomers on a massive galaxy-mapping mission want your intergalactic help.
The beautifully big picture: A research project known as HETDEX, or the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment relies on volunteers to comb through images to identify galaxies.
Why it matters: Professional astronomers are trying to learn more about the mysterious force known as dark energy, which is causing the universe to rapidly expand — but they need a huge sample of distant galaxies to observe dark energy at work.
By the numbers: Since launching in February 2021, more than 10,000 volunteers, known as Dark Energy Explorers, have identified approximately 240,000 galaxies.
- All those galaxies are packed into a patch of sky that includes most of the Big Dipper.
Yes, but: Scientists say there are a lot more galaxies in that bit of sky — like 10 times as many.
How it works: On a smartphone or computer, volunteers look at astronomical images and decide whether the objects they see are galaxies.
What they're saying: "We've tried writing computer code to do this and even used machine learning, but we found the human eye is significantly superior," Karl Gebhardt, a UT astronomy professor, said. "We were skeptical at first, but we were blown away by the accuracy."
What's next: The aim is to build the largest 3D map of the cosmos, focused on galaxies in the early universe to help reveal clues about dark energy.
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