Do you want to help scientist find star clusters in Andromeda Galaxy?

This is a picture I took last month in Northern Thailand.


It was a sky full of stars, with the Milky Way band at the bottom. If you pay some attention, you can see an elongated fuzzy blob right of centre, among the trees (click for bigger version). And if you familiar with the sky, you will know that is Andromeda Galaxy.

Andromeda Galaxy or M31 is about 2.4 million light-year from us – our neighbour in cosmic scale. It is the closest big spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way and is easily visible to the naked eyes on a clear night. Now, imagine how this big and near naked eye galaxy will look like using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

Individual star clusters in the galaxy can be seen.

And you can help to find them.

Join the newly launched Andromeda Project.


This project is asking anyone who is interested to help examine thousands of HST images of Andromeda Galaxy and identify its star clusters. Star clusters are groups of hundreds to millions of stars that formed from gas at the same time so all the stars have the same age. Star clusters are important because it hold clues to the evolution of galaxies. We are all curious how galaxies like our own Milky Way form, and Andromeda is the best place to study that process since our position within our galaxy makes it hard to study our history.

So far, scientists had looked through part of HST images and just manage to find 600 star clusters. It is believe that the full set of images contains 2500 star clusters. It is too time-consuming for a few scientists to look through such a big set of data, and the pattern-recognition software is not really that helpful.

So, instead of drowning the scientists with all these data, public were asked to help explore this galaxy next door. Registration is not required and a simple online tutorial teaches you how to recognise and mark the star clusters. Just go to the website – Andromeda Project – and get started.


I strongly agree with Cliff Johnson, a University of Washington graduate student working on the project: “You don’t need to know anything about astronomy to participate, and it’s actually pretty fun, like playing an online game”.

So, if you are free, why not spend some time doing some real science?


~ by thChieh on December 18, 2012.

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