Bubble - Blowing Stars Seen in the Thousands by Public
|1:20:19 AM, Friday, January 13, 2012|
“A project to spot the "bubbles" that young, massive stars blow in the gas surrounding them has come up trumps, finding more than 5,000 of the objects.
That increases the known catalogue of bubbles by more than a factor of 10.
The discoveries were made by citizen scientists studying images from the Spitzer space telescope, as part of the Milky Way Project.
The much-improved catalogue has been submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
One of the great remaining mysteries of how our Universe works is how stars themselves form in vast clouds of swirling gas.
Astronomers are keen to find star-forming regions, hoping to catch the process at various stages to better understand it.
Groups of stars form in clusters near particularly large stars, and one good hint of these stellar nurseries is the "bubble" that they blow into the surrounding gas - a bubble that can be seen in pictures taken by Spitzer's infrared camera.
But the task to find and list all the bubbles in existing high-resolution images taken by Spitzer is a daunting one.
The largest previous cataloguing effort was carried out in 2007 by a handful of US astronomers poring through the images with their own eyes; it came up with 269 bubbles.
Automating the process with a computer algorithm is not an option, said Eli Bressert of the European Southern Observatory.
"To have an algorithm that can identify that kind of structure, no one can do it a the moment - it's way too complex," he told BBC News.
"You need two things: pattern recognition and the ability to judge, based on the other data that you've seen, what's good and what's bad - and that's what humans are good at."
Enter the Milky Way Project, which grew from the riotously successful citizen science project to classify and describe types of galaxies, Galaxy Zoo…”