Online game can help predict star births

Dec. 19, 2012 at 8:16 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Armchair scientists can help identify the glowing cosmic areas where future stars will be born in an online galactic game called Clouds, its developers say.

The online effort is a new addition to the Milky Way Project, intended to enlist citizen scientists in helping astronomers sort and measure our galaxy, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported Wednesday.

The online Clouds experience features images and data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency mission in cooperation with NASA.

In the rapid-fire online game, players will decide whether a targeted section of a presented image is a cloud, a "hole" -- an empty region of space -- or something in between.

The cataloging of these snapshots of the local cosmos will help astronomers learn more about the architecture and character of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and if enough people participate, the Cloud developers say, results could come quickly.

"We're really excited to launch Clouds and see results back from our giant volunteer team of amateur scientists," astronomer Robert Simpson of Oxford University in England, and principal investigator of the Milky Way Project, said. "We think the community can blast through all these data fairly quickly. We may even be done by the spring, and that would be an amazing result for citizen science."

People wanting to look for infrared clouds and contribute to the Milky Way Project can get started at

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