You can be mayor of the Horsehead Nebula

It’s not quite Foursquare for the Galaxy. But the Milky Way Project offers a fun way to find and “friend” some of the universe’s loveliest and most enigmatic phenomena. The work of the Citizen Science Alliance, the Milky Way Project offers tools that let you find, identify, and tag structures throughout the Milky Way. The project uses infrared images from the Spitzer Galactic Plane Survey, which scientists are combing for clues to the life cycles of stars. By identifying the “bubbles” that some stars leave behind when they die, participants are helping to do the scientific heavy-lifting. The Milky Way Project is the newest of several such Citizen Science Alliance efforts, collectively called the Zooniverse; allied projects asked users to pick out galaxies and star clusters and identify interesting features on the surface of the moon. Drawing circles around cosmic mysteries, favoriting stunning images, comparing notes with other enthusiasts—it can all be addictive, and it’s undeniably more useful than Angry Birds. It also offers a good way to introduce kids to scientific work, and to a few wonders of the universe as well.

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