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Galaxy Zoo Quench: Experience the Wonder & Discovery of the Full Scientific Process

Galaxy Zoo and other Zooniverse projects have given thousands the opportunity to contribute to scientific research.  Our new project, Galaxy Zoo Quench, satisfies the public’s hunger to participate in the ENTIRE scientific process and experience the wonder and discovery that comes with doing science. 

As an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium and Northwestern University, I research how galaxies evolve over time. With my research team, we identified a sample of 3,002 galaxies that have recently and abruptly quenched their star formation. These galaxies are aptly named Post-Quenched Galaxies. They provide an ideal laboratory for studying galaxy evolution.

With the Zooniverse group at the Adler, we then dreamed up Galaxy Zoo Quench, using the Zooniverse infrastructure to allow us to mentor the public through the full scientific process. From soup to nuts!

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Once the classification is complete, the public will then launch into data analysis and discussion (with the support of the science team). Luckily, we have great tools to help make this accessible to anyone, no matter what your background. The online data visualization environment  will help all participants look for trends in the data and there’s already really exciting conversations happening within the discussion forum for this project. We’ll be using that online forum to share knowledge, pursue interesting results, collaboratively make sense of interesting plots, and determine which results should be included in the article. Finally, all participants will be able to contribute to the writing of the article through an innovative new online collaborative writing environmentThis is the same online software that a group of over 100 CERN physicists are using to write their articles.  

The entire process of classifying, analyzing, discussing with astronomers, writing the article, and submitting to a professional journal will take place over an 8 to 12 week period, which began on July 18. In the first five hours of the site being live, we had over 75,000 classifications by more than 1,400 people. 

What causes the star formation in these galaxies to be quenched?  How do interactions impact galaxy evolution?  What is the fate of our Milky Way?  Join us in exploring these questions, being a part of the scientific process, and contributing to our understanding of this dynamic phase of galaxy evolution! 

Have questions about the project? Ask us on Twitter (@adlerskywatch), Facebook, or within the Quench discussion forumI look forward to a fascinating 2+ months (and beyond!) working with you all!

Written by Dr. Laura Trouille, astronomer at the Adler Planetarium and CIERA Fellow at Northwestern University. You can follow her wonder, observations, and joy on Twitter @windycityastro.

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