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'Milky Way Project' Relaunches Citizen Science Website

The Milky Way Project, led by Matthew Povich, an astronomer at Cal Poly Pomona, is a website that gathers data for a highly successful citizen science project, funded by the National Science Foundation. Over the last 12 years, NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer missions have captured sweeping new views of our Milky Way galaxy. The website allows anyone to help scientists make sense of this deluge of data.
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Citizen Scientists Lead Astronomers to Mystery Objects in Space

Sometimes it takes a village to find new and unusual objects in space. Volunteers scanning tens of thousands of starry images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, using the Web-based Milky Way Project, recently stumbled upon a new class of curiosities that had gone largely unrecognized before: yellow balls. The rounded features are not actually yellow -- they just appear that way in the infrared, colour-assigned Spitzer images.
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Title: The Milky Way Project: A statistical study of massive star formation associated with infrared bubbles
Authors: Sarah Kendrew (1), Robert J. Simpson (2), Eli Bressert (3,4,5), Matthew S. Povich (6), Reid Sherman (7), Chris Lintott (2), Thomas P. Robitaille (1), Kevin Schawinski (8), Grace Wolf-Chase (9,7) ((1) Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, (2) University of Oxford, (3) University of Exeter, (4) ESO Garching, (5) Harvard CfA, (6) Penn State, (7) University of Chicago, (8) Yale, (9) Adler Planetarium)

The Milky Way Project citizen science initiative recently increased the number of known infrared bubbles in the inner Galactic plane by an order of magnitude compared to previous studies. We present a detailed statistical analysis of this dataset with the Red MSX Source catalogue of massive young stellar sources to investigate the association of these bubbles with massive star formation. We particularly address the question of massive triggered star formation near infrared bubbles. We find a strong positional correlation of massive young stellar objects (MYSOs) and HII regions with Milky Way Project bubbles at separations of < 2 bubble radii. As bubble sizes increase, a statistically significant overdensity of massive young sources emerges in the region of the bubble rims, possibly indicating the occurrence of triggered star formation by the collect and collapse mechanism, to which the data and methods are most sensitive. Based on numbers of bubble-associated RMS sources we find that 673% of MYSOs and (ultra)compact HII regions appear associated with a bubble. We estimate that approximately 222% of massive young stars may have formed as a result of feedback from expanding HII regions. Using MYSO-bubble correlations, we serendipitously recovered the location of the recently discovered massive cluster Mercer 81, suggesting the potential of such analyses for discovery of heavily extincted distant clusters.

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Title: The Milky Way Project First Data Release: A Bubblier Galactic Disk
Authors: R. J. Simpson, M. S. Povich, S. Kendrew, C. J. Lintott, E. Bressert, K. Arvidsson, C. Cyganowski, S. Maddison, K. Schawinski, R. Sherman, A. M. Smith, G. Wolf-Chase

We present a new catalogue of 5,106 infrared bubbles created through visual classification via the online citizen science website 'The Milky Way Project'. Bubbles in the new catalogue have been independently measured by at least 5 individuals, producing consensus parameters for their position, radius, thickness, eccentricity and position angle. Citizen scientists - volunteers recruited online and taking part in this research - have independently rediscovered the locations of at least 86% of three widely-used catalogues of bubbles and H ii regions whilst finding an order of magnitude more objects. 29% of the Milky Way Project catalogue bubbles lie on the rim of a larger bubble, or have smaller bubbles located within them, opening up the possibility of better statistical studies of triggered star formation. Also outlined is the creation of a 'heat map' of star-formation activity in the Galactic plane. This online resource provides a crowd-sourced map of bubbles and arcs in the Milky Way, and will enable better statistical analysis of Galactic star-formation sites.

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The Milky Way Project aims to sort and measure our galaxy, the Milky Way. Initially we're asking you to help us find and draw bubbles in beautiful infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Understanding the cold, dusty material that we see in these images, helps scientists to learn how stars form and how our galaxy changes and evolves with time.

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