A new Zoo world…

I wrote the following on my personal blog yesterday, but I thought you’d like a flavour of the first day of the Zoo.   

It’s been 19 months since the launch of the original Galaxy Zoo. That week was ridiculous – my main memory is of incredulous laughter as the number of users and classifications climbed and climbed and I, and the rest of the team, realised what we had on our hands.

Since then, we’ve made a lot of use of the results, but I’ve also spent a lot of time talking to all sorts of people and plotting to expand the project way beyond its original scope. Real people are now employed to make this happen, and Galaxy Zoo 2 which launched on Tuesday is our first site to use a new, extremely flexible interface.

It’s all come together rather rapidly in the last few weeks. On Monday night, I talked to the University’s Space and Astronomy society and told them the launch was only an hour or two away. Opening my laptop and connecting to the net on the train, I saw the new site appear. By chance I’d logged on 20 seconds after the beginning. I wonder if I was the first to see it?

I stayed up for a couple of hours that night watching the forum and email to see how reactions were. People were positive, but it stayed quiet and there was no flurry of press attention to mark the end of our press release’s embargo.

I lay in bed that night wondering if we’d just lost a colossal gamble. Perhaps we didn’t understand what it was about Galaxy Zoo that attracted people. Perhaps it really was just a one-off. It still seemed quiet the next morning as I watch the first report on BBC Breakfast TV, at 6.20, but I didn’t have time to think before being picked up and whisked off to Television Centre for more interviews.

And then we were off. More breakfast tv at 7.20, upstairs to 5 Live with Annie, one of our users, for 7.55 before that got bumped. Then back downstairs for more TV at 8.20 (Annie was great!) and then, as she headed off to work upstairs again for Radio 4. Once more I was sitting opposite John Humphrys, and we had a lot of fun on Today getting more and more enthusiastic about the project.

Spat out in the corridor, I was grabbed by the World Service for a quick interview, by now working completely on automatic. Just as quickly I found myself in a cab and at Paddington, and on a train to Oxford had time to catch my breath.

The site was clearly struggling, but stayed up (which is more than we managed for Galaxy Zoo 1) which I think is a pretty impressive achievement. More importantly, we were busy which meant that people were interested, and would come back to the site. Galaxy Zoo 2 is going to work, and we are going to get the data we want. It’s an amazing feeling; a mixture of relief and excitement. Less incredulous laughter, more satisfied grinning, I suppose.

We’d scheduled a small celebration for 5pm in the department, but unfortunately Arfon our lead developer had a bright idea just as the clock ticked toward 5, and he spent the whole time typing frantically, champagne at his side.

Since then, traffic has refused to die (which is fantastic) and as I write we’re on the front page of Digg.com so that’s not going to change any time soon. Thanks for your efforts – and the more classifications you do the sooner you’ll see what we’ve got up our sleeves for our next trick.

My email inbox included a note from Steven last night beginning the preparations for the next set of things, so keep clicking and watch this space!

About The Zooniverse

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18 responses to “A new Zoo world…”

  1. Nicholas Shanks says :

    I would like to see the questions expanded further, and also reduced:

    1) A bar prominence question (barely noticeable to overwhelming)
    2) Ability to abort a partially complete classification (“skip” link)
    3) A question on the colour. A simple blue/red/mixed option would suffice. (I wanted to bring to your attention several blue lenticulars I saw.)
    4) For the galaxy wars, comparing colours might be an alternative (“which galaxy is more blue?”)
    5) As previously mentioned on twitter, for PR reasons a collection of Zoo Heritage objects would be good to accumulate, by asking users to sort images on how pretty they are.

  2. Chris says :


    1 – We get this from Galaxy Wars which asks how prominent bars are
    2 – But then some galaxies might not get classified at all; just give them your best shot. You can go back to the beginning by clicking the buttons that appear at the bottom of the screen to record your classifications
    4 – Colours are one thing the computer is really good at, so there’s no need to adjust this by hand
    5 – I wonder what we’ll get when we look at which galaxies are most ‘favourited’.


  3. Thomas says :

    Chris, I would say that your gamble has, indeed, paid off. I can imagine how relieved you, and the team, are at the success of this second project. The words ‘internet’ and ‘behemoth’ come to mind as they did with the the first outing.

    I would personally like to thank you and the team for all the effort you have put in to make this work.

    Finally, I would like to raise a glass to Arfon, our new ‘Whizzkid’.


  4. Nathan says :

    Hi and thanks for Galaxy Zoo 2. I would like to see more variability in the Galaxy Wars question sets over time. Some options that come to mind, which are perhaps not easy for algorithms to decipher, but might be “eye popping”:
    * horizontal/vertical rotation
    * shape irregularity (galaxy itself, neighboring objects)
    * Question on perceived oddity
    * Obvious artifact vs. real wars (to increase user perception of doing well/incentive)


  5. weezerd says :

    It goes from strength to strength. May it continue in its simplicity.

  6. angus geo says :

    Big Bang in an easy step,

    2 universes one hot matter the other dark cold anti-matter. our universe!

    attracts each other. OK you have seen 2 magnets do this,

    they clashed the heat and matter cross into our negative anti-matter universe slows down from the clash, milky way is created, matter slows down matter becomes anti matter, its rejected … Black hole starts, galaxy swirls into the centre hole. we are then attracted back to positive universe in a string of spaghetti.
    Problem solved. we will be back as the vice versa happens in the other galaxy, we will return in a quasar.

    so here is creation + & -= creation.
    EG. man & woman= child, Im right on this subject, you say im wrong = argument.

    Its all around in every thing you do in your life. we are positive movement from the big bang.. keep moving and keep yourself flowing. It took me 5 mins to solve 16 billion years worth of mystery.

    your born reproduce pass on your energy in a child and then you die thats your function… enjoy. let your energy move forward in a new life keep the big bang going.

  7. p3dr036 says :

    I’m a newbie here and can see that this galaxy classifying can become a real “habit”!

    Am enjoying learning but I have just a small house keeping query. Although I have registered and am classifying like mad, it appears that my identity is only recognised on the Galaxy Zoo 2 site. I cannot login to to the Galaxy Zoo forum using my existing id. I am blocked. When I try to register using my id, I am told “this identity is already in use by “another” user!! [Which of course is me!]. I assume I am doing somnething silly!!


  8. Hanny says :

    Hi p3dr036,

    Welcome to the Zoo. The forum and the main site are not (yet!) connected like that. You need to register again/separatley on the forum. You should be able to have the same username and even password as on the main site though…

    There is a chance that someone else has your username on the forum, but maybe you’ve already registered yourself on the forum, and didn’t see the e-mail you then get to activate your account. (They sometimes end up in your spamfolder)…?

    This is just me guessing though. What you could do is e-mail me (vampke83[at]hotmail.com) your username (and e-mailaddress) and I’ll see if someone is there by that name. I’ll also poke some more techy people! Hope that helps and hope to see you on the forum soon. 😉


  9. Hanny says :

    Hey again p3dr036, I just checked and there is indeed someone named ‘p3dr036’ on the forum, but their account is not yet activated. They signed up 21st of February… you? 😉

    So, you probably didn’t do something wrong, you only need to find that e-mail with the link in it to activate.

    Hope to see you soon! 😀

  10. Edd says :

    I’ll arrange to have that account’s activation mail resent. Remember to check any junk email folders in case it gets misfiled. If you still have trouble p3dr036 do drop me an email at edward.edmondson@port.ac.uk and I’ll fix it for you!

  11. Hanny says :

    Thanks techy crew! 😉

  12. Dave says :

    To Chris & the rest of the motley GZ crew,
    Galaxy Zoo 1 got me hooked, which lead to me even dabbling in Waveneys mergers and the beta just left me hungry for more. Now I have the new improved GZ2.
    My Zooitis was bad before,now it’s uncontrollable, I hope you realise what you have unleashed.

    Wishing you all, continued success in all you strive for.

  13. semisaj says :

    Hi all,

    Have just started using the site for the first time tonight and am hooked already.

    I have had a minor interest in all things cosmos/universe related since watching the Carl Sagan Cosmos shows a few years back

    I think I will be taking more of an interest in the whole subject from now on.


  14. Alice says :

    Perhaps us zooites should write a blog on the subject of Galaxyzooitis. We have a list of symptoms in the Galaxyzooitis topic . . .

  15. Joseph K. H. Cheng says :

    Thank you very much, Chris for the great write-up about the first day of GZ. It certainly brings back a lot of fond personal memories.


  16. jrgdavies says :

    WHAT HAPPENED TO GALAXY ZOO 1 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I was in the process of reviewing my MY GALAXIES for an IYA
    project when Galaxy Zoo 1 disappeared without any warning that
    it would be yanked offline for Galaxy Zoo 2!!!!!!
    I had some fantastic galaxy pics that I hadn’t written down all
    the numbers to yet!!! Quite frankly, I liked Galaxy Zoo 1 better
    than the much slower Galaxy Zoo 2, because I could view many more
    galaxies in a given amount of time. I would be supremely grateful
    to be able to access the original Galaxy Zoo and the many tens of
    thousands of fantastic and spectacular galaxy pics that I had
    Sincerely John Richard Davies

  17. fluffyporcupine says :

    jrgdavies – you can find the original zoo here:

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