Galaxy Zoo started in 2007 because astronomers had 1,000,000 galaxies that needed to be sorted, classified, and examined. After the incredible response from the public, the zookeepers realized that this kind of problem wasn’t limited to galaxies, nor even just to astronomy, and the Zooniverse was born.
Now, seven actual years, close to 30 projects, more than 60 publications, and hundreds of years’ worth of human effort later, the Zooniverse has just registered its 1,000,000th volunteer. Given that Galaxy Zoo was the project that led to the creation of the Zooniverse, it seems fitting that its millionth citizen scientist joined to classify galaxies! That volunteer (whose identity we won’t divulge unless s/he gives us permission) joins over 400,000 others who have classified galaxies near and far. That number is 40% of the Zooniverse’s overall total — meaning that, while Galaxy Zoo has a large and vibrant community of volunteers and scientists, most people who join Zooniverse start off contributing to a different project. Many of them try other projects after their first: over on the Zooniverse blog Rob described the additions we’ve made to the Zooniverse Home area so that everyone who brought us to a million can see their own contribution “fingerprint” on the Zooniverse. Here’s what mine currently looks like:
Our millionth volunteer gets a cheesy prize (but hopefully useful: a Zooniverse tote bag and mug), and while we’d like to give that same prize to the 999,999 who came before him/her and to everyone who contributes to Galaxy Zoo and all Zooniverse projects, perhaps it’s more fitting that we say to everyone what’s really on our mind right now:
Having only announced the race to 60 million, only ten days ago, the Zoonometer is showing that we are now making the final 500,000 classifications! The response has been quite incredible and you can now start to see the winners going up on the Zoonometer page. We are still contacting winners as the classifications are made.
There is still one more prize draw to be made, at the 59,750,000 mark – when one classification from the previous 250,000 will be selected at random. Beyond that we await our 60,000,000th galaxy classification. The lucky person that makes that fateful classification will win a cool bundle of prizes:
- An original Sloan Digital Sky Survey plate
- A Galaxy Zoo mug and mousepad
- A Zooniverse t-shirt
Those of you that are wondering what will happen to Galaxy Zoo after the 60 million mark need not worry. We have a nice surprise in store for everyone very soon, but classifications will continue beyond 60,000,000 in the meantime. 60 million marks our minimum, best database. Every galaxy classified afterwards is still just as valid and useful as the 60,000,000 that preceded it and thus Galaxy Zoo will continue.
So if you want to be in with a chance of winning our prize for the 60,000,000th classification then go forth and classify! Watch this blog for more news and updates on the future of the Galaxy Zoo project.
[Image credit: NASA, ESA, K. Sheth (Spitzer Science Center, California Institute of Technology), and P. Capak and N. Scoville (California Institute of Technology)]