Want to help find space warps?
Image of an Einstein Ring courtesy ESA/Hubble and NASA

Unleash the citizen scientist in you by taking part in a fun new Zooniverse project: SpaceWarps.

The SpaceWarps project is designed to help amateurs find and report suspected gravitational lenses. With a small army studying the many millions of pictures that have been taken by telescopes over the years they hope to find many more formerly hidden examples of gravitational lensing.

These so-called "natural space telescopes" work when a massive object, such as a galaxy or black hole, comes between our point of view and an object behind them, such as a distant galaxy. That massive object acts like a massive lens and magnifies the light behind itself by warping spacetime instead of by using a glass lens. Many important discoveries can be made when a gravitational lens is spotted and analyzed, since many incredibly distant objects which would not normally be visible in even extremely powerful Earth-based telescopes can be made visible by this occurrence.

If you have ever worked on another Zooniverse project before (such as their first effort, Galaxy Zoo), the setup will seem very familiar. When you first sign in they present you with some training to make sure you can identify and mark a possible gravitational lens. There are reference images to help you identify a real image of a gravitational lens versus a "false positive." At first the project may seem daunting, but the Zooniverse team has made sure that the process is easy to learn and relatively painless. Occasional checks by the SpaceWarps program will  let you know if you are doing a good job picking out objects by using simulated gravitational lenses as well as images certified to be lens-free. Since gravitational lenses are relatively rare, you may go through very many pictures without finding a single instance-which makes finding an instance of lensing all the more worthwhile!

For more information and to sign up, go to: http://www.spacewarps.org

Join our vibrant stargazing community!
We invite you to join the NASA Night Sky Network stargazing community on Facebook and Twitter for sky charts, beautiful images, and lively conversation. 
Distant Suns, your personal guide to the cosmos, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the main navigation bar. Distant Suns is available on iPhone, iPad, Kindle, and NOOK.



SkySafari, a powerful planetarium that fits in your pocket, lists Night Sky Network astronomy club star parties, safe solar gazing events, and lectures in the help menu. SkySafari is available for Android and the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

Clear skies and happy stargazing!

The NASA Night Sky Network is managed by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in cooperation with NASA