Archive by Author | The Zooniverse

Galaxy Zoo Messaging Experiment – Results

Some of you may remember a while back we posted a blog announcing that we would be testing a new messaging system on Galaxy Zoo. Some of you may even have seen these messages while classifying on the site! This test was also part of a study of how we could use messaging to increase engagement on the project. Working with researchers from Ben Gurion University and Microsoft Research we delivered messages to volunteers at key times during their participation on Galaxy Zoo and observed how these messages affected their engagement. This research was based on previous work we had done that demonstrated that sending similar messages in emails could increase the likelihood of volunteers returning and engaging more with the project.

This screenshot shows an example of how the messages were shown in the Galaxy Zoo classification interface.

The volunteers were split into three main cohorts; One group who were delivered the messages at random intervals, one group who were delivered the messages at what were predicted to be optimal times, and a final control group who received no messages. This study has led to two peer-reviewed publications and the results show that optimal timing of an intervention message can significantly increase the engagement of volunteers on Galaxy Zoo.

This plot shows how the messages sent at the predicted optimal times were significantly more effective at increasing engagement than those sent at random.



These early results are intriguing, and we’d like to do more tests to see if it’s something we can use more broadly across Zooniverse projects. The same machinery might also be used by Zooniverse teams to send messages to volunteers – either in a group or individually – as they participate in their projects. We’ll keep you informed on the blog.

To read about the study and its finding in more detail please see the following papers:

This study was given approval by the ethics boards of both the University of Oxford and Ben Gurion University.

Galaxy Builder Results

For the past few years, a new Galaxy Zoo project has been under development. This project allows the creation of models of galaxies inside the Zooniverse website (although in a slightly experimental fashion). Many of you helped trial this project in December of 2017, and some have classified since it was quietly launched in late April. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the early results we have obtained from your classifications!

From the beta

260 of you helped beta test and debug the project in our beta, providing invaluable feedback (most of which we hope we addressed!) and submitting over one thousand test classifications of our small test sample. One of the images in this sample was the SDSS r-band image of the galaxy below, catchily known as SDSS J104238.12+235706.8.

In this post we’ll look specifically at the spiral arms drawn on this galaxy, and how we can recover information about the shape of the spirals from your drawn arms. If we plot every spiral arm drawn on the galaxy, two distinct spiral appear:

There are a number of classifications which have either crossed the center of the galaxy, linking the two arms with one line, or which attempt to enclose the spiral (as in the GZ:3D project) rather than tracing along the center line. This confusion arose from the short tutorial and confusing help text present in the beta, which was flagged by our testers (thank you!).

Grouping Lines

We can make use of unsupervised machine learning techniques to cluster together these drawn arms, and extract points corresponding to each arm (while throwing away some lines which didn’t fit into our groups).

Cleaning up

Taking one arm as an example, we identify points which could be considered outliers, and remove them to improve our later fit (using another unsupervised machine learning technique called Local Outlier Factor). In the image below, red dots correspond to points identified as outliers, and the blue contours can be seen as a probability map, with points in regions of darker blue being more likely to be an outlier.

Fitting a spiral

Brilliant – we now have a load of (unordered) points which roughly resemble the spiral arm of our galaxy! We’ll fit a smooth line to obtain a “best guess” of the galaxy’s spiral properties, the result of which can be seen below:


What we’ve discovered from the beta trial is that we need at least 20 attempts at drawing spirals on a galaxy to get reliable answers, so we’re keen to get more people trying to build galaxies on Galaxy Builder.

If you’d like to help please join us at If that’s not your thing we still need classifications on Galaxy Zoo: 3D, and the classic Galaxy Zoo is still live with all new images from the DECaLS survey.

Galaxy Zoo’s 10th Anniversary


Galaxy Zoo is celebrating ten years since launch next month, and as part of the festivities the science team are having a meeting in Oxford from 10th-12th July. Unfortunately we didn’t think it was feasible to invite the hundreds of thousands of you from all over the world who have contributed to the project over the last ten years, but the good news is that all of the talks from the meeting will be interactively live-streamed so that anyone can join in the discussion! See the schedule above for details on who is speaking at the meeting. Details of how to join the live stream will be released closer to the event.

There will also be an Oxford SciBar public event on the Monday night. All who are able to make it are welcome to join but don’t worry if you can’t, there will be a full podcast of the evening released shortly after the event!

Messaging Test



Over the next few weeks, some of you may see messages (like the one in the image above) while classifying on Galaxy Zoo. We are testing out a new messaging system. These messages should not appear frequently and, if you do see one, you will be able to opt-out of seeing any subsequent messages. In the unlikely event that you do see more than one of these messages during your classification session, you can let us know by emailing

Thanks for your understanding, and please continue your vital efforts at

UPDATE: The messaging experiment was ended in November 2017. To read about the results of the test and what we plan to do in the future, read this blog post

Observing Time for Galaxy Zoo

It’s Christmas come early at Galaxy Zoo, with a healthy dose of everything that an astronomer would want under the tree – observing time.

We get to use this!

The Gemini South dome in suitably picturesque setting.

We didn’t get everything we asked the telescope allocation committees for, but we did get plenty to keep us busy well into the New Year. 2013 will see the following telescopes turned to Galaxy Zoo targets :

Gemini South: This 8m telescope in Chile (pictured above) will be observing bulgeless galaxies thanks to Brooke Simmons and her friends at Yale (especially Ezequiel Treister, now at Concepción in Chile). This is a program to look at the galaxies that were included in our first bulgeless paper, using deep, high-resolution spectroscopy to examine their stellar populations. For some objects where the AGN signal comes to us unobscured by dust and gas (but buried in a bright galaxy that made it hard to see in the SDSS spectra), we hope to also determine black hole masses with these deeper, finer spectra.

WIYN at Kitt Peak: This 3.5m telescope has recently been outfitted with a brand new imaging camera. As long as it keeps working the way it has been in tests, we can use it for 6 nights to examine whether our sample of bulgeless galaxies ever had minor mergers. Bulgeless galaxies are important because they’re supposed to be guaranteed merger-free so deep imaging of this kind helps us to confirm that that’s true by looking for any remnants of ripped-apart galaxies.

Bolshoi Teleskop Alt-azimutalnyi: This 6m telescope is important in astronomical history – it was once the largest in the world. It will be observing the Voorwerpjes as part of our increasing desire to understand these enigmatic objects – more on which is coming over the Christmas period, with any luck.

Shane Telescope at Lick: We’ve been awarded a second run on this telescope to look for ionized gas in the companion galaxies to those with active galactic nuclei – a sort of large scale Voorwerpje hunt.

There will be much more about all of these as the data starts to arrive, but we wanted to make sure that you know there were presents under the tree. We’re looking forward to unwrapping them immensely!

*Note: this post has been updated to more accurately reflect reality.

600 Most-Galaxified Words

When we launched the new Galaxy Zoo in September we also launched our ‘galaxify‘ tool, which allows you to write in an alphabet of Galaxy Zoo galaxies. Since that time you have created 320,000 messages, all written in galaxies! 18,468 contained the word ‘love’ and only 218 contain ‘hate’. 302 contained ‘marry me’ (5,853 contain swear words). Here’s the top 600 words so far, in one giant green word ball:


Go write your own message at and don’t forget to check out the Zooniverse Advent Calendar for more fun items like this one in December.

Hangout with Galaxy Zoo: Science Chat Later Today

Later on today we’ll be holding a Google+ Hangout with a bunch of the Galaxy Zoo science team. We’ll be broadcasting this live at 3:30pm GMT (9:30am CST, 10:30am EST) and you’ll be able to see the video feed right here on the blog.

If you have any questions about the science behind Galaxy Zoo, short term loans UK and how to get them, or anything you’ve always wanted to ask the science team behind the project, please post them here as comments or contact us on Twitter @galaxyzoo.

We look forward to chatting later on and answering your questions.

We Need Your Help: Our New Astronomy Survey

This post is part of a series about the new Galaxy Zoo site. It is also part of Citizen Science September at the Zooniverse.

We are happy to announce that along with the new Galaxy Zoo release, we are also launching a new version of our Zooniverse astronomy survey. The new surveys were updated based on the many suggestions and responses we received from previous participants.

We are asking for your help so that we can develop a better understanding of the Galaxy Zoo participant base’s ideas in astronomy. The results from the new surveys will also be used to inform the development of Galaxy Zoo user tools and future science investigations. Looking forward, we will continue to conduct investigations that help Zooniverse create programs that promote even greater involvement from the citizen science community and allow for all involved to make even more profound scientific discoveries. Note that the information we gather for this work will remain anonymous.

Users of the new Galaxy Zoo will receive an invitation to “opt-in” to participate in taking the surveys as they are classifying. If you agree to help you will be given short surveys that contain 6 multiple-choice questions, which you can answer at your own pace. You can answer all the sets at once or take one set every week. Whatever works best for you. You can also opt-in to take quizzes by visiting your profile page.

Thank you again for participating and enjoy the new and improved Galaxy Zoo!

– The Galaxy Zoo Education Team

Live Chat – Hangout with Us

2012 is turning out to be a great year for Galaxy Zoo science. From Voorwerpjes to mergers to barred galaxies, there is lots to talk about right now when it comes to Galaxy Zoo. Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be holding a live chat with Galaxy Zoo science team stars Chris Lintott and Karen Masters. Starting at 2pm British Summer Time (1300 UT, 9am in New York, 3pm in Paris), Chris and Karen will be answering your questions and talking about some of the recent Galaxy Zoo work, made possible why your efforts on

If you have anything you’d like to them to discuss, or any questions you’d like them answer, then please either leave a comment here or Tweet us @galaxyzoo. We’ll also take questions via Twitter during the live chat.

You can watch the live chat right here on the blog, via our YouTube channel, where the video will also be posted afterwards. We’ll put links here, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, nearer the time. We’ll be using Google Hangouts for the live chat, so you can add the Zooniverse’s Google+ page to your own Google+ circles and connect that way too.

UPDATE: The live chat will begin shortly. The video feed will be visible here nearer the time.

Lens Zoo is Coming!

We’re very pleased to tell you that we’ve been awarded developer time from the Citizen Science Alliance to build a new, exciting Zooniverse project to discover gravitational lenses.

What’s a gravitational lens, you might ask? When a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies lies right in front of a more distant galaxy, the light from the background source gets deflected and focused towards us. These space-bending massive galaxies allow us to peer into the distant Universe at around 10x magnification, and to make accurate measurements of the total (dark and luminous) mass of galaxies.

As many of you know, there has been a long-running and enthusiastic search for lenses in the “weird and wonderful” part of the forum; although lens-finding was never a goal of the Galaxy Zoo project, this forum has turned up some interesting systems which we are still following up. Up until now, the GZ lens search has been quite informal: it has not been easy keeping track of all the candidates that have been suggested! Nevertheless, the Lens Hunters have done an amazing job, collecting and filtering the suggestions as they come in, and teaching themselves and each other about the astrophysics of lensing.

Impressive stuff: enough to persuade a group of professional astronomers that a specially-designed Zoo for identifying lenses could be a powerful way of analyzing the new wide-field imaging surveys that are coming online. In this Lens Zoo we will be able to provide you with new tools – designed, we hope, with you – to find new lenses more effectively. We have teamed up with astronomers from several big surveys who are eager to harness your citizen science power, and will be providing a lot of new, high quality data to be inspected. Over the next 6-10 months we’ll be working hard with the Zooniverse developers to build the Lens Zoo, and we hope you will join us for the ride: Lens Zoo needs you!

Phil, Aprajita, Anupreeta & the Lens Zoo team.