by Xinhua writers Ji Shaoting and Li Huizi
BEIJING, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- An online astronomy project -- Galaxy Zoo (www.galaxyzoo.org) -- is searching for Chinese people to help categorize galaxies in the universe.
The Zoo, which has no animals but more than one million galaxies, was set up in 2007 by a group of astronomers who found it impossible to classify the numerous galaxies. So they turned to the public and are now seeking help from the Chinese.
"I hope Chinese people will love to see the beautiful pictures of the galaxies as much as we do. I know they have a pretty long history of astronomy," said Karen Masters, leader of the science team of the Galaxy Zoo project and research fellow at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth, in Britain.
She was speaking at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) 28th General Assembly, in Beijing (Aug. 20-31, 2012).
"We live in a universe filled with galaxies with an amazing variety of sizes and shapes," said Masters, who introduced the project and said she was looking forward to having Chinese people join the project to learn more about the universe.
Within 24 hours of its launch five years ago, the website was receiving 70,000 hits an hour, with more than 50 million hits during its first year from almost 150,000 people. Now, more than 655,000 people have registered to help scientific researchers, said Masters, winner of the 2008 IAU Fellowship.
The science team has also published papers using the contributions from the participants of the Zoo.
"It just followed the trend of Internet research," Masters said, talking about the development of the project.
The female scientist, who has Chinese American husband and mother of two, said a Polish and German version of the project exists and is in the process of translating terms into Chinese.
She said, "The Chinese language will help people to better understand the questions on our website. To explore a Chinese version requires native speakers to make sure the term is right in the Chinese language. We hope some astronomers will want to volunteer for the job."
Using galaxy pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, which went into orbit by NASA in 1990, the Zoo allows amateur astronomers to map the obscure corners of the universe and is a citizen science project.
The Zoo designers made Galaxy Zoo 2 (zoo2.galaxyzoo.org) after selecting the best and brightest 250,000 galaxies, asking for more detailed questions. They then kicked off an ambitious exploration when Zooniverse.org went online.
"Zooniverse is a very big word. Zoo is kind of collection of many things and universe refers to everything in the universe," Masters said excitedly.
The website has the galaxy categorizing project and also contains more science research topics, including Moon Zoo, Planet Hunters, Milky Way Project. It also has transcripts of old sailing log books, which help to understand the earth's climate and Ancient Greek writings, she said.
Zooniverse offers a platform for scientists who need help from the public, Masters said.
"Now we even have a whale project to help marine researchers understand what whales are saying by categorizing their sounds. This is only a start, we are going to have more animals like lions," she said. "We are going to put a 'zoo' in the 'Zoo'."