Can You Help Find Holes?

In the Clouds of dust in the Milky Way of course.  The difficult and complex shapes make it too difficult for computers to analyze images from NASA’s infrared Spitzer Space Telescope.

So far, the human eye is the only thing available that can spot these holes and astronomers are once again turning to citizen scientists for help.

“We were surprised to find that some of these dark clouds were simply not there, appearing dark in Herschel’s images as well,” Derek Ward-Thompson, director of the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Astrophysics in England, said in a statement. Finding these unexpected holes is tricky. “The problem is that clouds of interstellar dust don’t come in handy easy-to-recognise shapes,” he added. “The images are too messy for computers to analyze, and there are too many for us to go through ourselves.”

Astronomers who use the Hershel space telescope teamed up with citizen science portal Zooniverse to make images of our galaxy available online for the public to comb through.

Please note that the site to help is not on the Zooninverse projects page, but is located at  A tutorial shows how to tell the difference between a hole and a cloud.  The volunteer decides if an image is a glowing cloud, a hole in the sky or something in between.  The site gives examples of each.
The Milky Way Project, which has already created astronomy’s largest catalog of star-forming bubbles since its inception two years ago.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +


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