Tag Archive | Christmas

Galaxy Zoo Image of the Year

The 19th door opened of the Zooniverse Advent Calendar leads us to M51, the beautiful Whirlpool Galaxy, taken on the SDSS telescope that we used for Galaxy Zoos 1 and 2.

For a few days after 25th November, the Galaxy Zoo Forum nominated their favourite galactic images from the thousands gathered over our three and a half years of existence, and voted on 48 of them. Here was the selection – as you see, it was a tough choice!


The winner was the stunning blue spiral, merging with a yellow galaxy so torn apart by gravitational forces that it would be hard to classify!


M51 is 33 million light years away and so bright that it has potential to fry the SDSS camera’s delicate optical instruments – so SDSS avoided looking at it too directly. Therefore, it has no reference number; but you can go into its pages and move up, down, right and left by adjusting the RA and DEC until you can more or less centre in on it.

M51 was discovered by Charles Messier, and put into his collection of objects that he thought were pain-in-the-neck smudges giving him false hopes of having discovered a comet! Jules wrote an Object of the Day about him and some of our other Messier Objects on the forum here. The pair of galaxies are also known as NGC 5194 and 5195. I’ve seen them described as 23 million, 31 million and 33 million light years away. The spiral is large, and famous for its dust lanes and intense star formation. You can resolve it in dark skies with a good pair of binoculars; it’s in the constellation Canes Venatici, though you find it just south-west of the brightest star of the Plough’s “saucepan handle”.

You can see a great deal more of this gorgeous object at Hubblesite, Astrocruise, NOAO and four different views altogether (and probably quite a few more) on APOD! The SDSS Telescope also has it proudly displayed on its home page, with a caption if you zoom in.

It won by only 1 vote; many other galaxies got almost as many. We’ve had plenty of time at Galaxy Zoo now to decide which galaxies we love best . . . and the answer is quite often “all of them”. M51 has never had any special attention on the forum that I recall, though it has of course had its fair share of admiration. I guess there are just too many things there to love!

A galactically happy Christmas to all our zooites from our oldest Zooniverse project.

A Very Forum Christmas


The Galaxy Zoo forum is a hub of activity in the Zooniverse. they talk about everything from merging galaxies, to supernovae and even tea and biscuits. Compared to these tea-drinking stalwarts of the Zooniverse community, I am a relative newcomer. I often wonder what they talk about for ages amongst those many forum sections and threads. For the Zooniverse Advent Calendar I thought I would find out – in the process I made a Christmas card for the forum!

I have taken every word from every forum posting of 2010 (over 100,000 posts) and given it to the Tagxedo website. The result is this lovely Christmas tree made up of all the most popular words used in the Galaxy Zoo forum. The size of the words shows their popularity, and only the 600 most popular words are shown in the image.

You’ll not surprised to see words like ‘galaxy’, ‘hubble’ and ‘universe’ in there. You might be more amused by the inordinate number of smilies that decorate the tree. I enjoyed the random alignment of the words ‘think different’ – which seemed very appropriate. You can also see the names of many of the forum’s more active members as well as words such as ‘friendship’, ‘welcome’ and ‘love’.

You can grab the image in 16 megapixel and 4 megapixel formats. Merry Christmas to our forum zooites!