About a week ago I decided to check out Galaxy Zoo, an online galaxy classification website which invites members of the public to take a very short tutorial and then contribute to science in a very real way. Users are shown an image of a galaxy snapped by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and asked to classify it according to various morphological features. This classification system is based on the tuning fork shaped diagram invented by the indomitable Edwin Hubble (similar to the image below).
Of course, we have examined the cosmos in far greater detail than Edwin Hubble could and our current menagerie of galaxy forms boasts far more stages than the above diagram, but the concept remains the same. Galaxies can be herded according to a few key features;
1. are they smooth and round,
2. do they have spiral arms, and / or
3. do they have a bar in the middle.
It is from this relatively straight forward platform that Galaxy Zoo allows you to spring into the cosmos. I have classified mergers;
And more than a few galaxies that are “Smooth, Round, Nothing Strange”;
Incidentally, that big red spot to the right of the elliptical galaxy is a red giant star. That’s enough typing, back to the zoo!