‘Galaxy Zoo’ project throws up a surprisingly ‘lopsided’ universe

November 14th, 2007 - 2:15 am ICT by admin  
Astronomers opened the ‘Galaxy Zoo’ project - the largest ever galaxy census -to amateurs to save the considerable amount of time they would take, were they to study all the galaxies by themselves.

The survey threw up some interesting and unexpected results.

The astronomers found that the collections of millions of stars, dust, gas and planets in galaxies preferred to rotate anticlockwise from the viewpoint of an observer on Earth.

Traditionally astronomers believed that galaxies spun either clockwise or anti-clockwise in equal proportion.

But new observations have revealed that either a mysterious force is acting on them or that the universe is in some way lopsided.

“Preliminary results suggest that spiral galaxies seem to point clockwise. It means they rotate anticlockwise from our perspective. If this new finding turns out to hold true, you will have to throw away the standard model of cosmology,” said Dr Chris Lintott, a member of the Oxford University Physics team that is running the project.

So far, more than 100,000 people from around the world have logged on to the Galaxy Zoo website, analysing and classifying the brightest million galaxies into two types, spirals, which are circular pinwheels, like our own galaxy the Milky Way, and rugby ball shaped galaxies, which are known as elliptical galaxies.

Due to their complex shape, the human eye is much better than computers at sorting the galaxies. So as a double check, the same image was shown to several users before they were finally classified.

Dr Lintott said the amateurs’ ability at classifying 30 million images, came as a complete surprise to the scientists.

“We’ve proved that random people are as good as professional astronomers,” the Daily Telegraph quoted Dr Lintott, as saying.

Sir Patrick Moore, an enthusiastic supporter, said: “Non-professionals have always been deeply involved in studying the sky and they now have yet another opportunity to make themselves really useful. Moreover, their help is now of immense value so do join up”.

The Galaxy Zoo team involves the University of Oxford, the University of Portsmouth and Johns Hopkins University, and Fingerprint Digital Media of Belfast. (ANI)

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