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What do you find when you crowdsource the universe?

Astronomers at the University of Minnesota reported this week that contributors to the citizen science portal, Galaxy Zoo, had helped them to amass a database of galaxies some 10 times larger than any previous galaxies catalog. 

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The Andromeda galaxy is seen next to the Milky Way galaxy in a NASA photo illustration. A new citizen science project has cataloged more than 300,000 of the universe's myriad galaxies.

NASA/Reuters

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How many people does it take to catalogue 300,000 galaxies?

Well, about 83,000, scientists say.

Astronomers at the University of Minnesota reported this week that contributors to the citizen science portal, Galaxy Zoo, had helped them to amass a database of galaxies some 10 times larger than any previous galaxies catalog. The new catalog is described in a paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and is also available to the public online.

Galaxy Zoo debuted in 2007 on the citizen science interface Zooniverse.org, which is now host to some 18 citizen science projects that offer almost 900,000 budding scientists the chance to sift through the universe, be it at the macro level, as a galaxy hunter, or at the most micro of micro levels: last week, the interface pushed the latest project live, called Plankton Portal. That project, out of Oregon State University and the University of Miami, asks for the public’s help in characterizing the beguiling plankton – jellyfish included! – seen in about a million underwater images.

To date, 54 scientific papers have been published based on Zooniverse’s crowd-sourced data.

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