First Supernova Paper Accepted

The true test of any citizen science project is whether it actually makes a contribution to science. That contribution can be small, but the thought that you’ve made a difference, no matter how small, to what is known about the Universe is a fine one. We know from the interviews our education research team have conducted that it motivates you too, so I’m delighted to announce that the first paper from Galaxy Zoo : Supernovae has been accepted by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. With the first Zoo 2 paper published by MNRAS this week, it’s in danger of becoming our in-house magazine (!), but this is seriously great news.

The home of the Palomar Transient Factory

The home of the Palomar Transient Factory

The paper, put together by 24 authors from the Zooniverse and the Palomar Transient Factory along with classifications from nearly 3000 Zooites, reports the results from the early trials of the supernova project which ran between April and July 2010. If you’ve been following the progress of the project, then it’ll be no surprise that things went well. In fact, the results are remarkably good. From the nearly 14000 candidates processed in that time, we caught 93% of the supernovae in the sample, and not a single candidate identified as a supernova by the Zoo was a false alarm.

The key to this result is the scoring system the Zoo uses. Depending on the answers to the question presented, candidates end up with a score of -1, +1 or, for really promising candidates, +3. If the average is above 1, then the candidate is probably a supernova. The team conclude that there is room for improvement here, particularly in reducing the number of classifications needed for a definitive decision. This isn’t that important right now, as the classifiers signed up to our email alerts are doing a sterling job, but as we expand to include more data, including supernovae from other surveys, it will become more important.

For now, though, please do consider helping out. Our latest paper shows that you’ll be making a real difference to PTF’s search for the exploding stars that might reveal our Universe’s fate.


P.S. On a personal note, congratulations to lead author Arfon on his first paper as lead author since leaving astronomy for web development a few years ago….

About The Zooniverse

Online citizen science projects. The Zooniverse is doing real science online,.

2 responses to “First Supernova Paper Accepted”

  1. Martin Nicholson says :

    It would be very useful if full positional data of the supernova discoveries could be made available. I don’t feel much sense of ownership if I cannot even be told where in sky the supernova has appeared.

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