On January 28 2014 11:52 AM, SCIENTIST KWillett wrote, in the A new transient discovered in SDSS data
thread in GZ Talk:
M. Koss and collaborators (including GZ science team member Kevin Schawinski) have just submitted a new paper on a transient object discovered in a nearby dwarf galaxy. Originally thought to be either a supernova or a QSO, they suggest that it is a luminous blue variable (LBV) star that has been erupting for decades, since at least 1950, and then FOLLOWED by a supernova in 2001.
A very interesting object, and one that was discussed by GZ volunteers back on the forum in 2011.
Everyone reading this post must surely be aware of the impact Hanny's discovery of what became known as Hanny's Voorwerp had, in terms of understanding the duty cycle of AGNs, the potential scientific value of citizen science projects such as Galaxy Zoo (re serendipitous discoveries), and more; likewise of the (collective, serendipitous) discovery of, and investigation into, Green Peas. For example, these figure prominently in Michael Nielsen's book "Reinventing Discovery" (discussed in this GZ forum thread
), and more generally are frequently and widely promoted (not an inaccurate word, right?) as the sorts of 'serious science' discoveries zooites - as citizen scientists - can make, and so contribute to astronomy in ways that go beyond mere classification clicking.
It's always puzzled me why the Galaxy Zoo serendipity seemed to come to a screeching halt not long after Green Peas (of course, serendipity has surely continued in other Zooniverse projects - or at least I hope it has!). And this recent discovery - of an apparently completely new kind of variable star, one which was flagged by at least one zooite as being unusual, several years' ago - led me to a mild Ah ha!
You see, GZ zooites have, in fact, continued to make serendipitous discoveries, and by now have possibly noted dozens, even hundreds
But it takes a professional astronomer to read those posts, containing such discoveries, to recognize that there's something odd/really new/cool/etc, and then to take the time to look into them a bit more. Many, perhaps most, "What’s the
[something odd]? – Anyone?
) are not anything like Hanny's Voorwerps or Green Peas. But, as we now know, at least one certainly is!
In the early days of GZ, professional astronomers seemed to be very keen to read each and every post (at least those which contained images of, or reference to, something some zooite had classified), and in every new astronomy-related Zooniverse project (well, extra-galactic ones at least), in the early days, the SCIENTISTs* of such projects seem just as keen. They also were - and still are, when new projects are still new - enthusiastic about answering zooites' astronomy-related questions, explaining the astrophysics (and more) underlying the phenomena, the data, etc. Not just Science Team members either; who can forget EigenState's great posts!
How things have changed!
My subjective impression is that none of the original zookeepers post here any more, nor in any (extra-galactic astronomy) Zooniverse project's Talk. Yes, NGC3314 posts here often; yes SpaceWarps seems to have plenty of Talk-active SCIENTISTs; and so on. So the opportunity for new GZ serendipitous discoveries is greatly reduced, if only because no professional astronomer seems to be even reading what zooites post.
There is a sunny side however, and that's what I'd like - hope - this thread will discuss.
You see, instead of professional astronomers answering newbie (and oldbie!) zooites' questions about what they find in images they've just classified, there are now a cadre of (mostly) oldbie zooites. Over in GZ Talk, for example, MODERATOR Els does an awe-inspiring job of concisely and accurately answering almost all such newbie zooite questions!
So it's these, ordinary citizen scientists, who first read the "What’s the
[something odd]? – Anyone?
" posts. Maybe, with some directed assistance from a handful of professional astronomers, with some training, ... these super-users (as I've seen these zooites being referred to sometimes) could learn to recognize, from among the thousands of ordinary objects, the handful which might be genuinely new to astronomy (in a broad sense)? And maybe one or two professional astronomers could dedicate/commit some of their precious time to checking these few 'super-user recommended' objects out?
A looooong time ago zkKevin announced the soft launch of Letters, intended as a place where ordinary zooites could publish their own, independent research. Search as you might, you'll find Letters very hard to find. And writing a Letter is almost guaranteed to give you ulcers. Yet wouldn't it be a great vehicle for getting serendipitous discoveries noticed? So perhaps a modest amount of Zooniverse development effort could be devoted to finally getting Letters to work as intended?
To close: as I understand it, many professional astronomers these days have some sort of 'outreach' goal/target to meet, as part of their jobs. Maybe we ordinary zooites could encourage at least one such astronomer to make active development of a 'serendipitous discovery framework' their outreach target?
* since there are no more SMF forums, just Talks, and that's how official Science Team members are labeled