Guest Blog: Newbie at Heart

Today’s guest blogger is Thomas J from the Galaxy Zoo forum.
My interest in astronomy goes back almost as far as I remember. I recall, after dinner with my grandparents one afternoon, my father sitting down and telling me about the Big Bang. I was amazed at the concept and my interest was piqued, although at the time, I didn’t really understand it. If I am totally honest, I understand it little more today! I should really say that, at that age, it was more of an interest in ‘space’ diluted with plenty of science fiction. After all, it’s much easier for a child to comprehend ‘Flash Gordon and the Mud Men’ than the angular separation of galaxies. I did, however, own a large hard back book on astronomy which I would read in bed almost every night.

I am still now a keen astronomer with some modest observational equipment, a sizeable book collection and a horde of journals, which by the way, has built up month by month into an untidy pile of magazines. It was in one such journal, (no need to mention which) that I discovered Galaxy Zoo. I immediately signed up and got started with classifying galaxies. It was within a few clicks that I just stopped, sat back, and stared at the screen for a moment, realizing what was in the image before me. I was looking at a galaxy, an entire system containing billions of stars/suns, floating billions of light years away. It was a profound and emotional moment (and I don’t have many of those), I am happy to say that, many clicks later I am still able to call up that emotion and enjoy the wonders contained within these images.

It was quite some time later that I realized there was a forum attached to the site, so I signed up and became a fervent poster, stamping my name in as many threads as possible in true newbie fashion. I went through the same initiation process as many others; over posting other peoples images and posting things in the wrong threads etc. but I was taken aback by the amazing friendliness and helpfulness of the other members. I know it has been said many times before but I must say myself that the Galaxy Zoo forum has a wonderfully friendly atmosphere, and I put that down to the excellent work of the moderators. It was one such, kindly, moderator (I won’t mention Alice’s name) who showed me the ropes and helped me master the subtle workings of the forum, and for that, I am grateful.
In early august there was a press release about our ‘Hanny’s Voorwerp’, which was followed by an incredible influx of new, fervent, posters. Armed with my forum skills, I decided to help as many newbies as I could (along with the other oldbies, of course). It was one night (four am), whilst holding my eyes open with one hand and attempting to type with the other, that I realized this endeavor was not going to be as easy as I had, at first, thought. So, to that end, with plenty of coffee, I devised a cunning plan. I decided to create a place just for newbies; there they could post images and ask questions to their hearts content and learn the secret art of ‘searching’.

I posted the topic at 05:07pm on 11 august and just after midnight that same evening we hit ten pages. The thread ran for the next two weeks at around twelve pages per day (official forum speed), and as I write, we are well over 5,000 posts. I must admit that I had quite a few sleepless nights and even took some time off work to make sure that each question got an answer as the forum is indifferent to local time and there were many newbies from all over the Globe. I would like to express my gratitude to the first run of newbies who came back to help out with the second influx after the Sky at Night feature. I must make one last mention to all the regulars that came on board to help out. I won’t mention names but you know who you are.

To wrap up I would like to mention that, since becoming a member of Galaxy Zoo, I have decided to follow my childhood dream. I am now studying with the Open University towards a degree in ‘astronomy related physics’. I don’t say this to try and impress you all, but to try and impress upon you all (do you see what I did there), how this internet behemoth has given me the energy to follow my dreams and allowed me to be involved in an area of science that I truly love.

About The Zooniverse

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19 responses to “Guest Blog: Newbie at Heart”

  1. elizabeth says :

    wonderful!! Thank you for all your hard work on this topic that you started. LOL “The secret art of searching”

  2. Curtis W. Garrett says :

    Well done Brother Tom.

  3. Alice says :

    Great to see this, Tom! 😀 Well done on the thread for newbies. If you are reading this and haven’t been to the Galaxy Zoo Forum yet, you can see you’ll be very well looked after.

    I didn’t realise you’d actually taken time off work! 😮 Galaxy Zoo does take over lives . . .

  4. Geoff Roynon says :

    Wonderful blog posting Tom! You’ve helped many, many newbies find their feet in the forum – good job.

  5. fluffyporcupine says :

    great article Tom!

  6. Pat says :

    Brillant blog post Tom!!! Well done in helping all the newbies out there on the forum. I know they are really glad you had that brillant idea and it is a great place for us oldies to give a hand and meet the newbies. And a place for us oldies too that have questions and to keep on learning.

  7. diver4skynsea says :

    That was wonderful–well done, Thomas. The newbies thread was brilliant-and really saved my life in this endeavor, I’ll admit! And I’m so happy to hear that GZ has inspired you to return to studies, as well. Bravo! 🙂

  8. Adrianus V says :

    Great article, Thomas! I didn’t know that the newbie-thread was so popular. Twelve new pages a day, wow! 😀 Succes with your study at the Open University!

  9. EdV says :

    Good article, Thomas! I wish you success at Open University!

  10. Jules says :

    Eloquent as ever Tom! 🙂 A good read which reflects the true spirit of the forum. May there be more blogs like this!

  11. buck1127 says :

    Tom, you are indeed one of the great assets of the Zoo and we are all very grateful for your attention and input around the threads. It’s always a pleasure to visit the Newbie thread to see what weird things people are looking at and wondering about and eagerly waiting to see replies. Loved your story, and please let us know if you ever figure out the Big Bang duringt your studies. 🙂

  12. weezerd says :

    a delightful story, an excellent exposé.

    Thanks for doing what you did and providing us all, newbies and old newbies, with this brilliant resource.

    I for one applaud you.

  13. stellar190 says :

    fantastic article Tom!

  14. Scientifically_inclined says :

    Marvelous blog Tom, thank you so much for all you’ve done to help this newbie out. If it wasn’t for you and your newbie thread, I would still be thinking some pretty off the wall things, lol. Hope to read some more blogs from you in the future, and best of luck with the Open University.

  15. milkie says :

    I know how thankful I was to have the newbies thread.It wasn’t quite so intimidating asking what I was sure were stupid questions. Even though not quiet so new now I still won’t hesitate to post there when I’m not sure where else to go.
    Thanks for being there and doing that for us Tom.

  16. Joseph K. H. Cheng says :

    An inspiring story ! Good on you Tom.

  17. Infinity says :

    Cheers Tom, pleased to have you as a friend and educator (from another still newbie) 🙂

  18. Hanny says :

    What Infie said! 😉

  19. Thomas J says :

    Thank you all, so much, for your kind words.


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