If you’re uncertain about anything, please watch our tutorial video again.
Please note: This video covers our old workflow. We will update it with a new video very soon.
As a next step, you can read our Guide to AstroQuest
If you still have some questions, here is our FAQ. Click on the questions to see the answers. If you don’t find what you’re looking for ask a question
Do I need to register to join AstroQuest?
Yes, you will need to register to participate in AstroQuest.
Registration lets us record the galaxies you’ve inspected and display them in your Gallery, and is needed to track your quest progress.
Can people from outside Australia participate?
Absolutely. Astronomy is an international subject and we’d love anyone on the planet to join in.
How do I change my password?
You can change your password via the ‘login’ button on the top right of the AstroQuest website. Click on the ‘Forgotten your password’ link.
You can then go through the process to ‘recover your password’ which will allow you to set a new one.
How do I get involved?
Once registered you’ll be shown a video that explains AstroQuest, and teaches you how to inspect galaxies. This should only take a few minutes. Then you’re ready to get galaxy gazing.
How will I find out the results of our work?
Can children join AstroQuest?
Yes, with a bit of assistance children of (roughly) eight and older should be able to participate, and will probably get a massive buzz from doing it.
Children do need parental approval to register. Parents and teachers should ensure that children have watched the tutorial and understand what they’re supposed to do.
Is there more help available?
Take a look through the Guide to AstroQuest– this is an article explaining the history behind the project and what we need you to do.
Inspecting the galaxies can be tricky – some will be obvious and you’ll breeze through them. Others are hard and even the astronomers disagree on what’s in the images! Just try and do the best you can. If you have a particular question you can send it to us and we’ll endeavour to answer it.
Can I get some feedback on how I’m going?
Part of testing AstroQuest is seeing what our volunteers come up using only the tutorials we’ve provided. Just try your best, anything you submit will be valuable to us and can help us improve the site going forward.
Don’t forget, the system is set up in such a way that each image is processed by at least 5 citizen scientists. The astronomers will then look more closely at the images that received a range of different responses – making the assumption that they were difficult to inspect – and will check them over themselves.
Can I have another go at a galaxy I’ve already submitted an answer for?
You can inspect a galaxy again by going to your gallery and clicking on it.
Don’t worry too much if you think you’ve made a mistake – each image will be done by multiple people – it’s a process designed to weed out any little errors.
Some people’s positions in the two leaderboards don’t seem consistent. How did they do so many galaxies in such a short length of time?
The code behind the “Time Inspecting” leaderboard was introduced after the beta version of the website had already been public for several months. Some people completed a lot of galaxies without the time they spent being recorded or rewarded. So don’t worry, they really did complete that number of galaxies!
The AstroQuest science team are working on the issue of how to filter out any bad data, for example people who have approved everything to climb up the “Galaxies Inspected” leaderboard. The more good data we have to work with, the easier it will be to work out what needs to be done. We will keep you all updated on our progress.
How do I inspect galaxies?
You can re-watch the introductory video at the top of this page any time. Also look for tutorial buttons on several pages, as well as circles with “i” or a question mark “?” in them.
Each of the issues that you can select for a galaxy has some text highlighted in orange. If you click on that text it will show you an example of the issue it’s describing and provide a longer explanation.
I can see more than one galaxy – which one do I inspect?
Sometimes galaxies will be merging or overlapping, but your galaxy will always be positioned between the cross hairs, with a small white dot on it.
Even if there is a bigger galaxy to the side, it’s the one between the cross hairs you need to inspect.
Do segments outside the central galaxy matter?
No. Only the galaxy coloured with your chosen colour is important. It doesn’t matter what the rest of the segments look like (unless they contain light from the central galaxy when they shouldn’t).
The image is distorted and I can’t inspect the galaxy – what do I do?
Try switching between the light channels to see if you can get a better view. If you still can’t see the galaxy clearly, choose either “Error due to a large bright star’s interference” or “Image has a glitch or error”.
How can I be sure I’m submitting correct answers?
Once you’ve finished the first set of tutorial galaxies, you can keep an eye on your “Performance Score”. This will let you know what percentage of the time you agree with most other users about whether the computer’s guess is correct or not.
There’s a big bright thing in my image – what is that?
If it’s not in the centre of the image then it could be a star, another galaxy or an image distortion caused by the telescope.
A galaxy will be roundish/oval/cigar-shaped or irregular in shape. It might be blue/white/yellow/orange.
A star will be round and could be very bright. It might be green/blue or orange.
Image distortion looks like a sun-burst pattern or strange lines. What you’re seeing is distortion caused by the telescope. Just ignore it unless it’s interfering with the central galaxy. If it is causing an issue, choose the appropriate option out of the list – for instance “Error due to a large bright star’s interference” or “Image has a glitch or error”.
I’ve found something weird. What should I do?
Feel free to let us know via the forums. You can click “Post about this galaxy in the forums!” underneath the galaxy you’re inspecting.
Where do the photos come from?
Take a look at the spectral graph on the results page after submitting a galaxy. At the bottom it will show all of the astronomical instruments involved in imaging your galaxy.
Read more on the science behind AstroQuest.
Is the information on the results page based on the corrected galaxy segments I submit?
No. The data on the results page is based on the computer’s attempt only, and will not change based on your corrections.
Once AstroQuest has been up and running for a while we will use everyone’s results to improve on the computer’s attempt, and generate new results pages with updated information.
How do I get my school involved?
Take a read through our suggestions on getting your students involved with AstroQuest.
Why do scientists want us to inspect these galaxies?
The images used in AstroQuest are part of a big project looking at the history of the universe and trying to understand how galaxies evolve.
It’s what we call ‘blue-sky’ science – there’s no reason to do this research other than for the sake of knowledge itself. And sometimes out of this knowledge new technologies may eventuate.
You can read more about the science behind AstroQuest in – Why inspect far away galaxies?
The reason we’re asking citizens to help is that there are just so many images to be processed. Unfortunately it’s not a job that a computer could do – but if lots of people help out then the load is shared.
What are scientists hoping to find?
The scientists want to create a census of galaxies of different ages. They can then use this information to create a model of galaxy evolution throughout the history of the universe. This knowledge may also help answer some of the inconsistencies we see between Einstein’s equations of how the universe should behave, and what we actually see occurring. These inconsistencies have led to the concepts of dark energy and dark matter. So this research may help shed some light on how the universe works.
What does the light from a galaxy tell us?
Luke Davies, astronomer says…
“The colour mostly tells us the age of the stars in the galaxy, or part of the galaxy if it has different colour regions.
“Young stars are generally hottest and produce higher energy/shorter wavelength light – this light is blue.
“Older stars are cooler and produce more light at red wavelength.
“Our sun is yellow/white because it sits somewhere in-between these two ranges, it is about average age, not too blue and not too red.
“So a blue galaxy contains younger stars than a red (yellow-orange) galaxy.
How was the distance of a galaxy from earth calculated?
Luke Davies, astronomer says…
“The distance is calculated using redshift. This is not measured from the images you see, but from a spectrum of the light from the galaxy. A spectrum is essentially the amount of light we measure as a function of wavelength. The spectra for these galaxies were taken using the Anglo-Australian Telescope in NSW and form part of the Galaxy and Mass Assembly Survey.
“In these spectra we see characteristic bright lines which are produced from atomic transitions in the elements which make up the galaxy. For example, we see bright lines corresponding to atomic transitions in Oxygen, Hydrogen and Nitrogen. From our experience here on earth, we know exactly the wavelength at which these lines should appear. However, when we look at distant galaxies, the lines are always ’shifted’ to redder wavelengths, this is a redshift. We also find that this shift is proportional to the distance to a galaxy (when it is measured in other ways). This the famous result Edwin Hubble found in 1929. So using the redshift, and knowing the relationship between redshift and distance, we can use it to work out how far away a galaxy is.
“What’s going on? Well the redshift is produced by the expansion of the Universe. As light has a finite speed limit, the further away a galaxy is away from us, the longer the light from it has travelled though space. In that time the Universe has expanded, and this is what causes the redshift. So…. using what we know about the expansion of the Universe (called out cosmological model) we can relate the redshift to both a distance to the galaxy and the time that the light has been traveling through space to reach us.”
Do the images show “red shift” ? In what way?
Luke Davies, astronomer says…
“The images will subtly show a redshift, in that the light will be ever-so slightly redder for more distant galaxies, but not at a level that we can see in these images. We use the galaxy spectra to calculate the redshift.”
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