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Classify galaxies, locate penguins by satellite: you too can advance science during confinement

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For various reasons, not everyone can afford to be useful to the nursing staff or their fragile neighbors during this period of confinement. But if you are idle, you should know that scientific research is always in demand with a little help.

We now know it only too well, everyday life in confinement is far from being the same for everyone. While many of us telecommute from morning to night and / or are forced to take care of their offspring full time, others have been forced to pause their work. For the latter, already plagued by the anxiety of a lack of income, time may seem long. Very long. And even if there are many ways to make yourself useful during this health crisis (we explain in this article how to help the nursing staff to fight against the Covid-19), it is of course not possible to give masks , blood or shopping for food every day, any time of the day. Furthermore, because their state of health is already fragile or their mobility reduced, some people simply cannot lend a hand outside.

So, to all those who start going around in circles, feeling unproductive and getting tired of tidying up, cleaning, cooking or reading sessions, we may have the solution: helping out remotely at Science. Of course, this is not a floor on a future coronavirus vaccine in front of his computer screen. It is rather a question of giving your time to advance tedious scientific projects, for which researchers always need small hands (and especially pairs of eyes). Here are a few, which may soften your confinement.

Classify strange galaxies

Since 2007, the Galaxy Zoo collaborative project has offered internet users to help astrophysicists “label” more than a million galaxies observed and photographed as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey program. The exercise consists in classifying them according to their shape and their obvious particularities, which can give in the blink of an eye of precious information on formation and their turbulent history. Is this galaxy elliptical or rounded? Does it appear in a spiral or does it appear more like a diffuse and homogeneous gleam? Does it have intriguing distinctive signs? So many useful questions to validate or invalidate the theoretical cosmological models.

But why not entrust this tedious task to an artificial intelligence? For Chris Lintott, astrophysicist at the University of Oxford, interviewed by the American site Space.com, nothing beats a human and subjective look at this database: “We have found new types of galaxies and new kinds of things in the sky only because one participant, engaging in very human behavior, said to himself, “This is unusual. I don’t know what it is.” however a preliminary sorting between the galaxies with the obvious characteristics and those with the more complex appearance, requiring in fact the judgment of a person. “Astronomers are good enough to get images of galaxies, a little less good at sorting data,” quips Chris Lintott. And because the program is regularly fed with new images coming straight from the observatories, you may well be the first person in the world to have set eyes on a galaxy suggested by the tool. Enough to travel without leaving home.

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