Andromeda Wants You! Astronomers Ask Public to Find Star Clusters in Hubble Images

Note: Anil Seth will discuss the Andromeda Project during the university College of Science’s Science Night Live, 5:30 p.m. MST Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, at Keys on Main, 242 S. Main St., Salt Lake City.

The Andromeda galaxy, shown here, is the closest spiral galaxy to our own spiral, the Milky Way. Astronomers at the University of Utah and elsewhere have launched the Andromeda Project so thousands of volunteers can help them find star clusters in detailed images of Andromeda made by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Robert Gendler

Astronomers at the University of Utah and elsewhere are seeking volunteers to explore the galaxy next door, Andromeda. The newly launched Andromeda Project will use people power to examine thousands of Hubble Space Telescope images of the galaxy to identify star clusters that hold clues to the evolution of galaxies.

Anyone can take part by going to

“We want to get people excited about participating. We’re hoping for thousands of volunteers,” says Anil Seth, an organizer of the Andromeda Project and an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah.

University of Utah astronomer Anil Seth is helping launch the Andromeda Project at so that citizen volunteers can help scientists look for star clusters in Hubble Space Telescope images of Andromeda, the nearest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way, which also is a spiral galaxy. Star clusters provide clues to the evolution of galaxies. Photo Credit: Lee J. Siegel, University of Utah

“I love looking through these amazing Hubble Space Telescope images of Andromeda, the closest big spiral galaxy to our Milky Way galaxy,” he adds. “The Andromeda Project will give lots of people the opportunity to share in that amazement.”

“Star clusters are groups of hundreds to millions of stars that formed from gas at the same time so all the stars have the same age,” Seth says. A goal of the Andromeda Project “is to study the history of the galaxy, and these clusters play an important role.”

Finding star clusters is difficult work. Eight scientists spent more than a month each searching through 20 percent of the available Hubble images just to find 600 star clusters. This is less than a quarter of the 2,500 star clusters they believe exist in the full set of Hubble images of Andromeda, also known as galaxy M31.

It would take too long for the astronomers to continue looking for star clusters on their own, and pattern-recognition software isn’t good at picking out star clusters.

To obtain faster results, Seth and colleagues want to “crowdsource” the problem and enlist volunteers from all walks of life to identify the star clusters. Registration isn’t required and a simple online tutorial helps volunteers quickly learn how to recognize and mark star clusters on

“You don’t need to know anything about astronomy to participate, and it’s actually pretty fun, like playing an online game,” says Cliff Johnson, a University of Washington graduate student working on the project.

The Andromeda Project is a collaboration that includes scientists and website developers at the University of Utah, University of Washington, Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Oxford University, University of Minnesota, University of Alabama and the European Space Agency.

About 400 volunteers participated in a recent test of the new website.

 Full press release.

Salt Lake Tribune Article


Science Night Live with Anil Seth

Wednesday, Dec. 5 @ 5:30 p.m. - Science Night Live! with Anil Seth! "Spying on Our Neighbors With the Hubble Space Telescope" at Keys on Main(242 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT)!.


with Dr. Anil Seth,
Assistant Professor of Physics & Astronomy

Spying on Our Neighbors With the Hubble Space Telescope

Date & Time:Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. 5:30 - 7:00 PM

Location: Keys on Main (242 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, UT)
View Map

Galaxies are collections of billions of stars with a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Astronomers still don't fully understand how this diverse zoo of galaxies form. In the galaxies nearest to our own Milky Way, we can learn about their histories by studying individual stars and clusters of stars. The Andromeda galaxy is our nearest galactic neighbor: beautiful, intriguing, and full of secrets.

The Hubble Space Telescope is currently engaged in a 4-year campaign to image Andromeda and reveal some of these secrets. U of U Professor of Physics and Astronomy Anil Seth will show some of the amazing pictures from this survey and discuss what we can learn from them.

Frontiers of Science is free and open to the public. Must be 21 or older to attend.

Learn More.


Kipp van Schooten Thesis Defense 12/05/12

Thesis Defense

Kipp van Schooten

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
3:30pm (110 INSCC)

Title: Optically Active Charge Traps & Chemical Defects in Semiconducting Nanocrystals Probed by Pulsed Optically Detected Magnetic Resonance


The forefront of current nanoscience initiatives includes the investigation and development of semiconducting colloidal nanocrystals for optoelectronic device concepts. Being highly facile in their synthesis, a wide range of sizes, morphologies, materials, interactions and effects can easily be engineered. Their solution-processability also offers the prospect of extremely cheap device manufacturing. Additionally, this material class makes available a type of “playground” for generating and observing novel quantum effects within reduced dimensions.

Since the surface-to-volume ratio is very large in these systems, unsatisfied surface states are able to dominate the energetics of these particles. Serving as charge “trap” states, their effect on observables is readily seen, for instance, in single particle photoluminescence blinking. Unfortunately, most methods used to observe their influence are inherently blind to the chemical identity of these sites. In absence of such structural information, systematically engineering a robust passivation system becomes problematic.

The development of pulsed optically detected magnetic resonance (pODMR) as a method for directly addressing the chemical nature of optically active charges while under trapping conditions is the primary tenet of this thesis work. Several trapping channels are observed in CdS nanorods, while two in particular are correlated, demonstrating for the first time that both electrons and holes are able to be trapped within the same nanoparticle at the same time. The intrinsically long spin coherence lifetime for these states allows for the spin multiplicity and degree of isolation to be explored, and opens the possibility of highly precise chemical fingerprinting through electron spin echo envelop modulation (ESEEM). Demonstration of novel effects is also performed for CdS/CdSe heterostructure tetrapods, such as coherent control of the light-harvesting process and remote readout of spin information.


This Week's Colloquium: Robert Davis, Dec. 6, 2012

Robert Davis
Brigham Young University

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012
102 JFB

Refreshments: 3:30 pm in 219 JFB
Lecture 4:00pm (102 JFB)

Title: Carbon Nanotube Templated Microfabrication


Precision microscale manufacturing, driven initially by the microelectronics industry, has more recently been extended to fabricate structures for mechanical and optical applications. Very low cost microscale mechanical sensors have become ubiquitous; most smart phones now incorporate microfabricated accelerometers and gyros. Silicon is not only the anchor material for microelectronics but vertically etching of silicon is also used to create the three dimensional microstructures used in applications ranging from inertial sensors to neural probe arrays. We have recently developed carbon nanotube templated microfabrication (CNT-M), a fabrication technique that is complementary in several ways to vertical silicon etching. CNT-M enables high aspect ratio fabrication of microstructures from a wide range of materials including ceramics and metals. We now use CNT-M to fabricate structures for applications ranging from energy storage to chemical filtration and detection.


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