This is my first time….

This is my first Galaxy Zoo blog posting and being one of the oldest members of the team (42!) I’m a bit lost with this new technology – sign of old age. Galaxy Zoo 2 was launched only a few days ago and Chris L rang me this morning to tell me we already have 2 million classification, so you guys are averaging a million galaxies a day.

That is staggering for us astronomers as we are usually expect our experiments to take a lot longer. For example, if one wants to use a telescope to study something in the sky, one must write a proposal 6 months in advance, submit it for scrutiny, and then await your allocation of time on a telescope. The process can take nearly a year and then after your night staring at the stars, it can take a further year to analyse the data (assuming it wasn’t cloudy!). Only then are we ready to ask questions of the data and test our observations against our original hypothesis written two years ago in a haste!

With the Zoo, it’s all a little too quick! For example, I can ask the question “how many galaxies have a bar through the middle of them” and typically I would embark on a career-long quest to answer this fundamental question. I may even recruit some poor graduate student to eyeball 50,000 galaxies to answer the question (like they did with Kevin!). But now, two days after the launch, we already have the data to address this question and it’s a little too fast for an old-timer like me. This story does however demonstrate the impact of technology on science. Thirty years ago the arrival of CCD digital detectors on telescope revolutionized the way we did astronomy. We could see deeper and faster than with photographic plates and surveys like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) became a reality. The internet is clearly the revolutionary technology of this generation of astronomer. Youngsters like Chris and Steven have embraced it and Galaxy Zoo is an amazing demonstration of how powerful this new tool can be used to address new questions.

The future does look bright as our ability to build bigger and better digital detectors allow us to scan the heavens faster and deeper. This year a new telescope called Pan-STARRS1 will start operations and will scan the northern hemisphere repeatedly looking for killer asteroids and supernovae. This new technological advance will open up the time-domain in astronomy and soon we maybe be showing you movies of each individual galaxy. How many galaxies change in time? Who knows… Therefore, science and technology are intimately linked. The desire of scientists to do better science drives technology, while new technologies open up new science capabilities. We need to fund both of these endeavours. I will end here with my thanks again for all your clicks and encourage you to keep going. You are part of a revolution and it’s a little scary, as all revolutions are.

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23 responses to “This is my first time….”

  1. Daniel Hicken says :

    I remember as a child wanting to be an astronomer, having a love of the stars–and I have to say I’m glad to see this amazing step forward that Astronomy is now taking, and the fact that I can participate as a lay-person.

    I’m excited to see what things you all uncover!

  2. Carolyn says :

    I’m (even) older than you, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to join in this adventure.

  3. margo says :

    Bob, you may consider yourself and oldie;but you are a goodie!

  4. Laurie says :

    Oh Bob your a spring chicken Or a sprung Chook ! No I am 51 Years old and have always had a love for the Sic. but alas I grewup in a time period that said Girls are too dumb and a Da that said I did not need the highter maths not did I need to go to collage for any Sic. what was I going to do with it ???Make a Janitor in a lab? With this giveing us olddies a chance to have a go at this is great It is amazeing all that has been learned from this but then I always knew that there was more to the night sky than what you can see ! Thanks for haveing me on the team

  5. Graham says :

    Life begins at 40 Bob..or a generation later lol

  6. Hanny says :

    Hey Bob, very nice!! 😉

  7. diaswa says :

    Very well written, Bob !

    I have shown this to two of my granddaughters to hopefuuly get them to think about science. Also don’t worry about being old (I am 64) and not all that facile with new technology. One of grandson’s is standing here as I write this wanting to see the Galaxy Zoo 2 web site. Besides it is a great time to be where we are today.

  8. Alice says :

    Fantastic, Bob . . . I feel the shivering excitement of the thought of a revolution.

    (Did you know the word “revolution” comes from Copernicus and his book? It means “going round and round”. It was so daring, disobedient, and fundamental. All revolutions in countries and establishments where mutinies take place are named after good old Copernicus.)

    Oh, and I’m 26 and already feel too old for a lot of technology, so you’re in good company; but we have people three times my age on the zoo who seem pretty happy!

  9. Half65 says :

    Great Bob from another older ones (43)

  10. Pat says :

    Bob isn’t 42 the answer to the Life the universe and everything. 🙂 Honest that isn’t old and great blog post. 🙂

  11. scottV says :

    42 is old? Oh no. I’m also 42 and had a funny moment while watching the last Mars landing — everyone on the team at NASA was younger than me!

    I was working on a GalaxyZoo-like project when the Zoo came along and proved the power of getting thousands of people answering a few simple questions. Fascinating stuff.

    Don’t forget, if 42 is the answer … what’s the question?

  12. margo says :

    Seems you have quite a few stella fans out there!

  13. margo says :

    …..or to be precise – stellar!

  14. margo says :

    PS. Sir Patrick Moore is still going strong after his first broadcast on BBC tv in 1957 – you were not even a twinkle then.

  15. Mark says :

    I feel like I am missing all the fun! I have not been able to classify in the official release. Beta I did but not release. Yeah does feel to fast for even me.

  16. John B says :

    Even scarier from this side bob! Just a decade older than you and having my first try at the classifications of the galaxies. Read through the tutorial last Tuesday after seeeing launch on bbc and decided no it was impossible, too hard, will never do it, not good enough etc etc. Read through another twice yesterday, and logged on and looked through some of the blog entries which seemed very encouraging, and I’ve just had my first ever try at it tonight. Felt a bit like jumping off a cliff but you know what, I’ll be jumping again tomorrow! all best to Galaxy zoo

  17. Randa says :

    Hi Bob,
    Greetings from a 66 year old who enjoys categorizing galaxies for fun.

  18. q says :

    Well done Bob.

    It only gets simpler with time:)


  19. Jim says :

    Hey Bob, I bet that at 75 I’m not the oldest Zooite having fun with all of this new stuff. I enjoyed your comments. I love clicking. Can’t wait.

  20. Carolyn says :

    So who is the oldest zooite then? Any advance on 75?

  21. weezerd says :

    Well it isn’t me ,
    ‘though I was in at the first day of Zoo2;
    and also I was in at the first day of Zoo1;
    yet I’m not old enough to have been in at the Big Bang.
    But it’s all great and the more we learn the greater it gets.
    Here’s hoping we don’t run out of technology…

  22. Anonymous says :

    Can you send me a new mouse? I think i have classified this one into the sad state of “unusable” 😛

  23. Joseph K. H. Cheng says :

    Thank you Bob. We Zooites are always as efficient as the circumstances require us to be.


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