the story behind

13 Jan. 2013 | After having celebrated its fifth birthday last year, Galaxy Zoo usually doesn’t need an introduction in conversations anymore. Around the world, people know it’s the project largely responsible for the citizen science trend. There are a few other good projects online too, on which you can help real scientific research without being a scientist yourself. But ‘the Zoo’ seems the largest and it’s still growing (although I might be a bit biased, being the one who made that famous discovery on it).

After the astronomers behind the initial Galaxy Zoo project had launched a second version of it, Galaxy Zoo Hubble quickly followed, as well as a few smaller projects focussing on merging galaxies, supernovae, ice in space and the Andromeda galaxy. Currently, all these projects are listed as retired already. We’re now at Galaxy Zoo Four and the space section also lists Moon Zoo, Solar Stormwatch and we’re hunting for Planets. That many projects? We’re not even there yet! There’s the Milky Way one and we recently launched Planet Four, to explore Mars.

So Galaxy Zoo grew into The Zooniverse – a mother project to all these different missions. Which together led to countless papers. It’s also a bit hard these days (even for a Zooniverse ambassador) to keep track of all the new-born projects. Especially since other sciences started working together with the Citizen Science Alliance. This includes humanities project Ancient Lives, health project ‘Cell Slider’ – on which you can help find a cure for cancer! – and climate projects Old Weather and Cyclone Centre. Last but not least, some of my favourite projects are the ones in the nature category: Whale FM, Seafloor Explorer, Bat Detective and Snapshot Serengeti.

It’s always a nice surprise when a new quest is launched and I’m continuously curious to find out what we’ll learn next. In one of my talks I jokingly mentioned we’re taking over the world and currently, there are more than 750,000 Zooites taking part in unravelling some mysteries. You can still get on this fast train. The way to go is probably to try all the projects and pick a favourite. Or a few favourites. Welcome to the Zoo!