Monday, April 26, 2010

NASA wants public to join in Hubble Telescope's 20th anniversary extravaganza

NASA wants public to join in Hubble Telescope's 20th anniversary extravaganza

NASA Hubble shotThe Hubble Space Telescope [1] has taking snapshots of the universe for 20 years this week and as part of that anniversary, the space agency is looking to crowdsource new galaxy images and promote social network celebrations.

Specifically, NASA's Space Telescope Science Institute and the online astronomy project Galaxy Zoo are making almost 200,000 Hubble images of galaxies available to the public at Galaxy Zoo: Hubble [2]. What they want are volunteers from around the world to help astronomers classify these photos by answering simple questions [3] about what they are seeing -- for example, identifying the number of spiral arms visible, shape of galaxy, or spotting galaxies in the process of merging, according to NASA.

More than 250,000 people have contributed to Galaxy Zoo [2] since its launch in 2007, but so far they have been looking only at the local Universe, the group stated. The original Galaxy Zoo and Galaxy Zoo 2 both used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and recently, after reaching 60,000,000 classifications those projects began to wind down, the group stated.

"The large surveys that Hubble has completed allow us to trace the Universe's evolution better than ever before,' said University of Nottingham astronomer and Galaxy Zoo team member Dr. Steven Bamford in a statement. 'The vast majority of these galaxies will never have been viewed by anyone, and yet we need human intuition to make the most of what they are telling us'.

The Galaxy Zoo project isn't the only activity NASA wants the public to participate in. Hubble fans worldwide are being invited to take an interactive journey with Hubble by visiting NASA - Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Hubble Telescope [5]. They can also visit HubbleSite -- Out of the ordinary...out of this world. [6]To share the ways the telescope has affected them. Follow the "Messages to Hubble" link to send an e-mail, post a Facebook message, or send a cell phone text message. Fan messages will be stored in the Hubble data archive along with the telescope's science data. For those who use Twitter, you can follow @HubbleTelescope or post tweets using the Twitter hashtag #hst20.

According to NASA Hubble has become the best-recognized, longest-lived and most prolific space observatory since the space agency launched it April 24, 1990.

Over the years, Hubble has suffered broken equipment, a bleary-eyed primary mirror, and the cancellation of a planned shuttle servicing mission. Still, the telescope's crisp vision continues to challenge scientists and the public with new discoveries and evocative images, NASA stated.

To date, Hubble has observed more than 30,000 celestial targets and amassed more than a half-million pictures in its archive. The last astronaut servicing mission to Hubble in May 2009 made the telescope 100 times more powerful than when it was launched.

Recently astronomers broke the distance limit for galaxies [7] by uncovering a primordial population of compact galaxies that have never been seen before. Pictures from NASA's Hubble showed the galaxies to be from 13 billion years ago, just 600 to 800 million years after the Big Bang. The space telescope images could show the newly found objects are crucial to understanding the evolutionary link between the birth of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies, and the sequence of evolutionary events that resulted in the assembly of our Milky Way, NASA stated.

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