Bad Astronomy

Supernova hunt

Wanna hunt for supernovae? Here’s your chance!

The folks at Galaxy Zoo – the enormously successful and highly addictive citizen’s science site that lets you classify galaxies – have added a new twist: the ability to look for supernovae in their images. When a star blows up, it gets much brighter. So by taking the new Galaxy Zoo images and comparing them to older images, it’s possible to find a supernova. The two images need to be aligned, then scaled, then subtracted… and if there’s still something there, it may be a star that did not go gently into that good night.

They make it easy on you: they’ve done all the hard processing work, and present the results. The picture above is from the hunt. You look at it, answer some simple questions, and then move on to the next one. It’s not hard… except stopping. That’s hard.

If this works (and I think it will), I wonder what’s next for the clever brains behind Galaxy Zoo. Asteroid searches? Kuiper Belt Objects? There’s a lot of potential in them thar images, and I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of it realized.