May 30, 2012 at 5:40 PM ET
Want to see your name up in lights? How about harnessing galaxies to send a message? There's a website for that, thanks to University of Nottingham astronomer Steven Bamford and Galaxy Zoo's legions of virtual sky-searchers. "My Galaxies" lets you spell out anything you want, using real galaxies that are shaped like characters.
It's clear that Bamford's a character as well, judging by his blurb explaining what the project is all about. Galaxy Zoo participants have classified nearly a million galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, based on their shapes, and it turns out that some of those shapes happen to look like letters of the alphabet.
"Really?" Bamford asks rhetorically. "There are galaxies that look like letters? OK, S and Z I can believe, but M? H? R? Capitals or little letters? What about punctuation, or numbers? ... Well, there aren't many, but when you've got pictures of millions of galaxies and an energetic group of Zooites, there isn't much that can stay hidden!"
Zooites began using the odd-shaped galaxies for their own custom-made messages, and eventually Bamford and a colleague of his wrote a Web-based computer program to translate typed messages into Galaxese. T-R-Y I-T O-U-T!
More messages from outer space:
Tip o' the Log to Universe Today's Jason Major.
Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.