Public to help puzzle over cosmic car crash

Scientists from Oxford University and George Mason University in Virginia are aiming to use human talent to match up images of colliding galaxies in the hope of finding the best models.

The Galaxy Zoo Mergers site will allow the study of what astronomers call “galactic mergers”. Examining them may explain why the universe has such a mix of galaxy types.
The team behind the site believe that the human eye is more useful than computers for the task of matching up images of real mergers with randomly-selected images of simulated mergers.

“These collisions take millions of years to unfold and so all we get from the Universe is a single snapshot of each one. By producing simulations, we will be able to

watch each cosmic car crash unfold in the computer,” said Anthony Holincheck, a graduate student at George Mason University and member of the team behind the site.

“Whilst we’re challenging the 250,000 existing users of the original Galaxy Zoo site to take part in this new project, anyone is welcome to join in – you don’t have to be an expert, in fact our evidence shows that not being an expert actually makes you better at this sort of task,” said George Mason astronomer John Wallin.