Every decade, the US astronomy community gets its leaders together to write up a report on the state of the field and to recommend and rank major projects that should be supported by the government over the next decade. It’s a blue print, a wish list and often also a sober exercise in what to fund (a little) and what to cut (a lot). The current Decadal Survey was finally released by the US National Academies last Friday and every astronomer is poring over it to see if their project or telescope is ranked highly.
Galaxy Zoo isn’t competing for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to launch a space observatory, but it did get not just one but two mentions in the 2010 Decadal Survey, one in the text and a figure. For those of you who are keen to read the whole thing for themselves, you can get the report at the National Academies website here (you have to click on download and give them your details to get the free PDF download). Here on the blog we only show you the highlights, i.e. the Galaxy Zoo mentions. From the text in the section on “Benefits of Astronomy to the Nation” where they discuss how “Astronomy Engages the Public in Science”:
Astronomy on television has come a long way since the 1980 PBS premier of Carl Sagan’s ground-breaking multipart documentary Cosmos. Many cable channels offer copious programming on a large variety of astronomical topics, and the big three networks occasionally offer specials on the universe too. Another barometer of the public’s cosmic curiosity comes from the popularity of IMAX-format films on space science, and the number of big-budget Hollywood movies that derive their plotlines directly or indirectly from space themes (including five of the top ten grossing movies of all time in America). The internet plays a pervasive role for public astronomy, attracting world-wide audiences on websites such as Galaxy Zoo (www.galaxyzoo.org, last accessed July 6, 2010) and on others that feature astronomical events, such as NASA missions. Astronomy applications are available for most mobile devices. Social networking technology even plays a role, e.g., tweets from the Spitzer NASA IPAC (http://twitter.com/cool_cosmos, last accessed July 6, 2010).
They also have a lovely figure, which has a small blooper in it (see if you can spot it!). Word is that this is going to be corrected in the final version:
Thank you all for making Galaxy Zoo such a success!