The use of online services such as Flickr to help scientists is in its infancy and applications utilizing commodity based solutions will continue to pick up momentum. I especially like the integration and the ease of use – science should be about discovery and exploration – not about the technology. Of course the ability to view those analyzed images in WorldWide Telescope completes the circle and allows you to view the image in context.
Check out the Orion Nebula.
After it opens up – click on the thumbnail at the top.
You can also add your own – check out Dinoj’s post on the WWT Data Blog – Sticking images on the sky with WWT. For fun you can see the crown for the Corona Borealis overlaid on the sky
Flickr hosts a wide range of beautiful images, but a new project built on top of Flickr’s API only focuses on photos of the night sky from amateur astronomers. The Astrometry.net project constantly scans the Astrometry Flickr group for new images to catalog and to add to its open-source sky survey. At the same time, this project also provides a more direct service to the amateur astronomers, as it also analyzes each image and returns a high-quality description of the photo’s contents.
The Astrometry group currently has over 400 members, and as Christoper Stumm, a member of the Astrometry.net team, told the Flickr Code blog, the back-end software uses geometric hashing to exactly pinpoint and describe the objects in the images. When you submit an image to the Flickr pool, the robot will not just respond with a comment that contains an exact description of what you see in the image, but it will also annotate the image automatically.
While just being able to automatically analyze and catalog these images is pretty cool already, every description also contains a link that displays the image in Microsoft’s WordWide Telescope.
Astronomy is one of those few scientific disciplines where dedicated amateurs can still make major discoveries and this is definitely one of the cooler applications of Flickr’s API that we have seen in a long time.