More than 40,000 citizen scientists teamed up to discover 5 never-seen supernovae

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Apr 28, 2015, 4:36 PM EDT

Sure, groups like NASA and major universities hold many of the tools needed to study the cosmos — but that doesn't mean a group of armchair astronomers can’t team up to find some insanely cool stuff.

An amateur astronomy project established by scientists at the Australian National University used 40,000 volunteers to study images and data captured by the SkyMapper telescope in a search for new objects. Among the things they found? Five never-before-seen supernovae. As Space notes, the project used the University of Oxford’s Zooniverse platform, which is a common tool for crowdsourced space initiatives.

Basically, the volunteers were tasked with looking at images captured of the night sky, then comparing those images from different times to look for potential changes that might have occurred. Since supernovae shine extremely bright at the point of explosion, the team was able to find five never-recorded examples of supernovae. Anything of interest flagged by volunteers was then confirmed by a team of researchers.

Not surprisingly, some aspiring Galileos took it a bit too seriously. Researcher Richard Scalzo noted one volunteer “stayed online for 25 hours” because he was so determined to find a supernova. Sadly, the guy struck out, but he did spot an unusual variable stay that Scalzo noted "could explode in the next 700 million years or so." Well, beats a total strike out. 

The scientists behind the project said they considered it a huge success, and it just goes to show the power of the human spirit to work together and find insanely cool stuff. Way to go, humanity. 

(Via Space)

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