Hello everyone – my name is Becky Smethurst and I’m the latest addition to the Galaxy Zoo team as a graduate student at the University of Oxford. This is my first post (hopefully of many more) on the Galaxy Zoo blog – enjoy!
So far there have been over 100 scientific research papers published which make use of your classifications, some of which have been written by the select few Galaxy Zoo PhD students (most of us are also previous Zooites). The most recently accepted article was written by Edmund, who wrote a blog post earlier this year on how bars affect the evolution of galaxies. As part of the astrobites website, which is a reader’s digest of research papers for undergraduate students, I wrote an article summarising his latest paper. Since the Zooniverse team know how amazing the Galaxy Zoo Citizen Scientists are, we thought we’d repost it here for you lot to read and understand too. You can see the original article on astrobites here, or read on below.
Title: Galaxy Zoo: Observing Secular Evolution Through Bars
Authors: Cheung, E., Athanassoula, E., Masters, K. L., Nichol, R. C., Bosma, A., Bell, E. F., Faber, S. M., Koo, D. C., Lintott, C., Melvin, T., Schawinski, K., Skibba, A., Willett, K.
Affiliation: Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064
Galactic bars are a phenomenon that were first catalogued by Edwin Hubble in his galaxy classification scheme and are now known to exist in at least two-thirds of disc galaxies in the local Universe (see Figure 1 for an example galaxy).
Bars are a key factor in our understanding of galactic evolution as they are capable of redistributing the angular momentum of the baryons (visible matter: stars, gas, dust etc.) and dark matter in a galaxy. This redistribution allows bars to drive stars and gas into the central regions of galaxies (they act as a funnel, down which material flows to the centre) causing an increase in star formation. All of these processes are commonly known as secular evolution.
Our understanding of the processes by which bars form and how they consequently affect their host galaxies however, is still limited. In order to tackle this problem, the authors study the behaviour of bars in visually classified disc galaxies by looking at the specific star formation rate (SSFR; the star formation rate as a fraction of the total mass of the galaxy) and the properties of their inner structure. The authors make use of the catalogued data from the Galaxy Zoo 2 project which asks Citizen Scientists to classify galaxies according to their shape and visual properties (more commonly known as morphology). They particularly make use of the parameter from the Galaxy Zoo 2 data release, which gives the fraction of volunteers who classified a given galaxy as having a bar. It can be thought of as the likelihood of the galaxy having a bar (i.e. if 7 people out of 10 classified the galaxy as having a bar, then the likelihood is = 0.7).
They first plot this bar likelihood using coloured contoured bins, as shown in Figure 2 (Figure 3 in this paper), for the specific star formation rate (SSFR) against the mass of the galaxy, the Sérsic index (a measure of how disc or classical bulge dominated a galaxy is) and the central mass density of a galaxy (how concentrated the bulge of a galaxy is). At first glance, no trend is apparent in Figure 2, however the authors argue that when split into two samples: star forming (log SSFR > -11 ) and quiescent (aka “red and dead” galaxies with log SSFR < -11 ) galaxies, two separate trends appear. For the star forming population, the bar likelihood increases for galaxies which have a higher mass and are more classically bulge dominated with a higher central mass density; whereas for the quiescent population the bar likelihood increases for lower mass galaxies, which are disc dominated with a lower central mass density.
- Figure 2: The average bar likelihood shown with coloured contoured bins for the specific SFR (SFR with respect to the the total mass of the galaxy) against (i) the mass of the galaxy, (ii) the Sérsic index (a measure of whether a galaxy is disc (log n > 0.4) or bulge (log n < 0.4) dominated and (iii) the central surface stellar mass density. This shows an anti-correlation of with the specific star formation rate. The SSFR can be taken as a proxy for the amount of gas available for star formation so the underlying relationship that this plot suggests, is that bar likelihood will increase for decreasing gas fraction.
Bars become longer over time as they transfer angular momentum from the bar to the outer disc or bulge. In order to determine whether the trends seen in Figure 2 are due to the evolution of the bars or the likelihood of bar formation in a galaxy, the authors also considered how the properties studied above were affected by the length of the bar in a galaxy. They calculate this by defining a property , a scaled bar length as the measured length of the bar divided by a measure of disc size. This is plotted in Figure 3 (Figure 4 in this paper) against the total mass, the Sérsic index and the central mass density of the galaxies. with the population once again split into star forming (log SSFR >-11 ) and quiescent (log SSFR < -11 ) galaxies.
As before, Figure 3 shows that the trend in the star forming galaxies is for an increase in for massive galaxies which are more bulge dominated with a higher central mass density. However, for the quiescent population of galaxies, decreases for increasing galactic mass, increases up to certain values for log n and and after which the trend reverses.
The authors argue that this correlation between and within the inner galactic structure of star forming galaxies is evidence not only for the existence of secular evolution but also for the role of ongoing secular processes in the evolution of disc galaxies. Furthermore, they argue since the highest values of are found amongst the quiescent galaxies (with log n ~ 0.4) that bars must play a role in turning these galaxies quiescent; in other words, that a bar is quenching star formation in these galaxies (rather than an increase in star formation which has been argued previously). They suggest that this process could occur if the bar funneled most of the gas within a galaxy, which is available for star formation, into the central regions, causing a brief burst of star formation whilst starving the majority of the outer regions. This evidence becomes another piece of the puzzle that is our current understanding of the processes driving galactic evolution.
Over the past six years, Galaxy Zoo volunteers have spotted innumerable patterns in the shapes of regular, merging, and fortuitously overlapping galaxies in the various surveys. While we’ve had great success with letters of the alphabet and with animals, searches of both the Forum and Talk haven’t revealed many turkeys so far. In recognition of Thanksgiving in the U.S. this week, we offer this turkey drumstick (or tofurkey, if you’re a veggie like some team members) spotted last year by volunteer egalaxy.
For those of you who get them, enjoy the break — and let us know what you think about this interesting galaxy (or possible overlapping pair)!
Our next hangout will be next Tuesday at 7 pm European time / 6 pm UK / 3 pm in Chile / 1 pm EST / 10 am PST.
Update: Our next hangout will be next Tuesday at 8 pm European time / 7 pm UK / 4 pm in Chile / 2 pm EST / 11 am PST.
I mention Chile above because two team members will be at a conference in Chile at the time (spreading the word about Galaxy Zoo is a tough job, but someone’s got to do it) and will try to be on the hangout with us.
What do you want us to talk about? We have some ideas but if you have questions, please let us know!
Just before the hangout we’ll update this post with the embedded video, so you can watch it live from here. If you’re watching live and want to jump in on Twitter, please do! we use a term you’ve never heard without explaining it, please feel free to use the Jargon Gong by tweeting us. For example: “@galaxyzoo GONG dark matter halo“.
See you soon!
The guest post below is by Zach Pace, an undergraduate physics student at the University of Buffalo. Zach worked at the University of Minnesota during the summer of 2013 through the NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Zach is continuing to work with Galaxy Zoo data as part of his senior thesis.
My name is Zach Pace. I’m an undergraduate physics student from the University at Buffalo, and I’ve been working on the Galaxy Zoo 2 project at the University of Minnesota since late May with Kyle Willett and Lucy Fortson. My investigation has been twofold: I have been diagramming specific morphological categories in color-magnitude space, and also fitting those data to mathematical functions.
As many readers probably know, a galaxy’s magnitude (overall brightness in the red band, on a log scale) and a galaxy’s color (the difference between the blue magnitude and a red band) are two important quantities for determining what a galaxy might look like (and how it might evolve). Brighter galaxies have more mass (more stars produce more light, of course), and bluer galaxies have a more recent star formation history (this is because young, bright stars tend to be large, bright, and blue). In terms of the whole population, we know, for instance, that elliptical galaxies tend to concentrate in a red sequence, and have typical colors between 2.25 and 2.75. Conversely, the vast majority of spiral galaxies concentrate in a blue cloud between colors 1.25 and 2.0. These two populations are clearly separated in color-magnitude space (this can be seen in the accompanying 2-D histogram, made from Zoo 2 data).
One of the main goals of Zoo 2 is to gauge the extent to which morphology informs physical characteristics like color and magnitude, so my objective for the summer was to come up with good representations of color and magnitude for all of the smaller sub-populations in Zoo 2.
Several of my results were interesting and surprising. For instance, it has been suggested that spiral galaxies with more arms and spiral galaxies with tighter arm winding (which is to say, a shallower pitch angle) tend to be brighter and bluer. This can be intuitively understood as follows: tighter winding of spiral arms and the presence of more spiral arms indicate, on average, denser gas clouds in those arms, which is tied to increased star formation and bluer color. However, I wasn’t able to measure this in the Zoo 2 data (all the differences were on the order of the histograms’ bin size, about 0.1 magnitude, or about a 10% difference in brightness). This suggests that spiral galaxies, no matter arm multiplicity or winding, are drawn from the same base population.
I also came across something unexpected when looking at bulge sizes in face-on disk galaxies. The distribution of galaxies classified by users as bulgeless is starkly different from the distribution of obvious bulge and bulge-dominated galaxies. Furthermore, the population with a bulge that is just noticeable seems to form an intermediate population between the bulgeless and bulge. This observation is also borne out in edge-on disk galaxies: the population of bulgeless edge-on galaxies has a similar shape to the population of face-on galaxies, albeit with stronger reddening on the bright end.
To fit the distributions, I used a method pioneered about 10 years ago by Ivan Baldry, which fits one parameter after another in our profile functions to find a distribution that converges onto the best fit. It works okay (but not great) for the whole sample, and it fails pretty badly when working with the smaller sub-populations. This is because I have to fit many parameters at once, and do that a bunch of times in a row for the fit to converge, so there are a lot of points of failure. I’m working now at Buffalo towards finding a different and better fitting routine, which will allow us to represent more distributions mathematically.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.
What follows is a press release from Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, regarding the new Mandarin Galaxy Zoo. Below is some context for English speakers and regular Galaxy Zoo users.
從”Galaxy Zoo”到「星系動物園」，天文所推廣組表示，「兩年前就想過要做」的這個計畫，今年8月，一經天文所博士後研究Meg Schwamb再次提議，立刻獲得響應，網站中文化水到渠成，也讓台灣在全球天文學界再博得一次「亞洲第一」的小獎勵（註：目前該網站只有英文版和西語版）。推廣組表示，由於星系資料持續新增，分類員在圖像庫中撈到某個從未曾被人見過的星系，或「全球第一人」這樣的說法，確實所言不虛。
來自英國的Galaxy Zoo計畫主持人Chris Lintott表示，在網民科學網站傘狀計畫下的項目還有很多，天文類的譬如行星獵人(Planet Hunters)和火星氣候(Planet Four)。這些都必須靠各位地球人以好眼力來熱情相挺，電腦可幫不上忙。為什麼呢？歡迎上網一探究竟：http://www.galaxyzoo.org/?lang=zh
Last weekend, led by Dr. Meg Schwamb (who is part of the Planet Hunters and Planet Four teams), a team of Taiwanese astronomers helped introduced a Chinese (Mandarin) version a Galaxy Zoo to the public on the Open House Day of Academia Sinica, the highest academic institution in Taiwan.
A big crowd of enthusiastic students and parents, attracted by the long queue itself, visited the ‘Citizen Science: Galaxy Zoo’ booth to try the project hands-on by doing galaxy classifications. They were excited to participate in scientific research and enjoyed it very much.
“Amazing! In just two minutes, we have helped astronomer doing their research, it’s so cool! Also, we learn new astronomical facts we never knew before. It’s a good show.”
The Education Public Outreach team of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics (a.k.a. “ASIAA”), has helped translated Galaxy Zoo from English to Chinese (Mandarin). The main translator, Lauren Huang said, “we were keen to do a localized version for Galaxy Zoo since 2010, so when Meg brought up this nice idea again, we acted upon it at once.” In less than six weeks, it was done. The other translator, Chun-Hui, Yang, who contributed to the translation, said that she likes the website’s sleek design very much. “I think the honor is ours, to take part in such a well-designed global team work!” Lauren said.
Talking about the translation process process, Lauren provided an anecdote that she thought about giving “zoo” a very local name, such as “Daguanyuan” (“Grand View Garden”), a term with authentic Chinese cultural flavour, and is from classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber. She said, “because, my personal experience in browsing the Galaxy Zoo website has been very much just like the character Ganny Liu in the classics novel. Imagine, if one flew into the virtual image database of the universe, which contains all sorts of hidden treasures waiting to be explored, what a privilege, and how little we can offer, to help on such a grandeur design?” However, the zoo is still translated as “Dungwuyuan”, literally, just as “zoo “. Because that’s what some Chinese bloggers have already accustomed to, creating a different term might just be too confusing.
You can check out the Traditional Character Chinese (Mandarin) version of Galaxy Zoo at http://www.galaxyzoo.org/?lang=zh
Note: this is a post by Galaxy Zoo science team member Edmond Cheung. He is a graduate student in astronomy at UC Santa Cruz, and his first Galaxy Zoo paper was accepted to the Astrophysical Journal last week. Below, Edmond discusses in more depth the new discoveries we’ve made using the Galaxy Zoo 2 data.
Observations show that bars – linear structures of stars in the centers of disk galaxies – have been present in galaxies since z ~ 1, about 8 billion years ago. In addition, more and more galaxies are becoming barred over time. In the present-day Universe, roughly two-thirds of all disk galaxies appear to have bars. Observations have also shown that there is a connection between the presence of a bar and the properties of its galaxy, including morphology, star formation, chemical abundance gradients, and nuclear activity. Both observations and simulations argue that bars are important influences on galaxy evolution. In particular, this is what we call secular evolution: changes in galaxies taking place over very long periods of time. This is opposed to processes like galaxy mergers, which effect changes in the galaxy extremely quickly.
To date, there hasn’t been much evidence of secular evolution driven by bars. In part, this is due to a lack of data – samples of disk galaxies have been relatively small and are confined to the local Universe at z ~ 0. This is mainly due to the difficulty of identifying bars in an automated manner. With Galaxy Zoo, however, the identification of bars is done with ~ 84,000 pairs of human eyes. Citizen scientists have created the largest-ever sample of galaxies with bar identifications in the history of astronomy. The Galaxy Zoo 2 project represents a revolution to the bar community in that it allows, for the first time, statistical studies of barred galaxies over multiple disciplines of galaxy evolution research, and over long periods of cosmic time.
In this paper, we took the first steps toward establishing that bars are important drivers of galaxy evolution. We studied the relationship of bar properties to the inner galactic structure in the nearby Universe. We used the bar identifications and bar length measurements from Galaxy Zoo 2, with images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The central finding was a strong correlation between these bar properties and the masses of the stars in the innermost regions of these galaxies (see plot).
We compared these results to state-of-the-art simulations and found that these trends are consistent with bar-driven secular evolution. According to the simulations, bars grow with time, becoming stronger (they exert more torque) and longer. During this growth, bars drive an increasing amount of material in towards the centers of galaxies, resulting in the creation and growth of dense central components, known as “disky pseudobulges”. Thus our findings match the predictions of bar-driven secular evolution. We argue that our work represents the best evidence of bar-driven secular evolution yet, implying that bars are not stagnant structures within disk galaxies, but are instead a critical evolutionary driver of their host galaxies.
Today’s post is from Ivy Wong, Science Team member and PI of an upcoming new project. She also did an amazing job organizing our Galaxy Zoo conference in Australia. Read on for details!
It has been 2 weeks since the “Evolutionary Paths in Galaxy Morphology” meeting in Sydney and I am still recovering from the post-conference brain-melt, also described in Brooke’s blog post. Perhaps I am getting old.
The 4 days of cutting-edge science presentations and discussions went by all too quickly. And we are now left with new ideas for new projects and renewed motivation for finishing up current ones. It is also becoming clear that the term morphology is slowly evolving from a once vague division between early- and late-type galaxies (i.e. spheroids or spirals; as inferred from observations using optical telescopes) to include more specific descriptions of a galaxy’s form which includes the 3-dimensional dynamics and kinematics. Also, how a galaxy looks at a different wavelength will depend on factors such as how hot its interstellar medium is, how much gas it has, what state that gas is, how active is the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole and whether it is experiencing any harassment by its neighbours and local environment.
As our understanding of galaxy morphology evolves, so too will the Galaxy Zoo project. As you may have heard, the next generation Galaxy Zoo project will show us morphologies that will be completely alien to most of us, even those who enjoy a regular dose of science fiction. The new Radio Galaxy Zoo project will show us images observed in the radio wavelengths, typically coming from synchrotron radiation. Synchrotron emission results from accelerated charged particles moving at relativistic velocities and is usually seen as outflows/jets from a galaxy’s central supermassive black holes.
Though this already happened during the conference dinner, I’d like to take this opportunity to make a repeat of the toast (albeit virtually) to the >800,000 citizen scientists who has helped us thus far. It would have been lovely to have you all join us at the meeting, but we would have probably sunk our dinner boat. So if you’re interested in checking out some of the presentations from this meeting, please go to:
The official conference program booklet will help put these presentations into context and can be found at:
Am definitely looking forward to the next big Galaxy Zoo conference. Perhaps somewhere up North next time?
Over the years the public has seen more than a million galaxies via Galaxy Zoo, and nearly all of them had something in common: we tried to get as close as possible to showing you what the galaxy would actually look like with the naked eye if you were able to see them with the resolving power of some of the world’s most advanced telescopes. Starting today, we’re branching out from that with the addition of over 70,000 new galaxy images (of some our old favorites) at wavelengths the human eye wouldn’t be able to see.
Just to be clear, we haven’t always shown images taken at optical wavelengths. Galaxies from the CANDELS survey, for example, are imaged at near-infrared* wavelengths. But they are also some of the most distant galaxies we’ve ever seen, and because of the expansion of the universe, most of the light that the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) captured for those galaxies had been “stretched” from its original optical wavelength (note: we call the originally emitted wavelength the rest-frame wavelength).
Optical light provides a huge amount of information about a galaxy (or a voorwerpje, etc.), and we are still a long way from having extracted every bit of information from optical images of galaxies. However, the optical is only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the other wavelengths give different and often complementary information about the physical processes taking place in galaxies. For example, more energetic light in the ultraviolet tells us about higher-energy phenomena, like emission directly from the accretion disk around a supermassive black hole, or light from very massive, very young stars. As a stellar population ages and the massive stars die, the older, redder stars left behind emit more light in the near-infrared – so by observing in the near-IR, we get to see where the old stars are.
The near-IR has another very useful property: the longer wavelengths can mostly pass right by interstellar dust without being absorbed or scattered. So images of galaxies in the rest-frame infrared can see through all but the thickest dust shrouds, and we can get a more complete picture about stars and dust in galaxies by looking at them in the near-IR.
Starting today, we are adding images of galaxies taken with the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) for the recently-completed UKIDSS project. UKIDSS is the largest, deepest survey of the sky at near-infrared wavelengths, and the typical seeing is close to (often better than) the typical seeing of the SDSS. Every UKIDSS galaxy that we’re showing is also in SDSS, which means that volunteers at Galaxy Zoo will be providing classifications for the same galaxies in both optical and infrared wavelengths, in a uniform way. This is incredibly valuable: each of those wavelength ranges are separately rich with information, and by combining them we can learn even more about how the stars in each galaxy have evolved and are evolving, and how the material from which new stars might form (as traced by the dust) is distributed in the galaxy.
In addition to the more than 70,000 UKIDSS near-infrared images we have added to the active classification pool, we are also adding nearly 7,000 images that have a different purpose: to help us understand how a galaxy’s classification evolves as the galaxy gets farther and farther away from the telescope. To that end, team member Edmond Cheung has taken SDSS images of nearby galaxies that volunteers have already classified, “placed” them at much higher redshifts, then “observed” them as we would have seen them with HST in the rest-frame optical. By classifying these redshifted galaxies**, we hope to answer the question of how the classifications of distant galaxies might be subtly different due to image depth and distance effects. It’s a small number of galaxies compared to the full sample of those in either Galaxy Zoo: Hubble or CANDELS, but it’s an absolutely crucial part of making the most of all of your classifications.
As always, Galaxy Zoo continues to evolve as we use your classifications to answer fundamental questions of galaxy evolution and those answers lead to new and interesting questions. We really hope you enjoy these new images, and we expect that there will soon be some interesting new discussions on Talk (where there will, as usual, be more information available about each galaxy), and very possibly new discoveries to be made.
Thanks for classifying!
* “Infrared” is a really large wavelength range, much larger than optical, so scientists modify the term to describe what part of it they’re referring to. Near-infrared means the wavelengths are only a bit too long (red) to be seen by the human eye; there’s also mid-infrared and far-infrared, which are progressively longer-wavelength. For context, far-infrared wavelengths can be more than a hundred times longer than near-infrared wavelengths, and they’re closer in energy to microwaves and radio waves than optical light. Each of the different parts of the infrared gives us information on different types of physics.
** You might notice that these galaxies have a slightly different question tree than the rest of the galaxies: that’s because, where these galaxies have been redshifted into the range where they would have been observed in the Galaxy Zoo: Hubble sample, we’re asking the same questions we asked for that sample, so there are some slight differences.
Top Image Credits and more information: here.
A quick post to say congratulations to new Galaxy Zoo science team member Edmond Cheung, a PhD student from UC Santa Cruz, on the publication of his first Galaxy Zoo paper. Edmond approached us some time ago and was interested in doing further study on the barred galaxies in both Galaxy Zoo 2 and GZ: Hubble. This paper is the result of the excellent work he’s done looking at more detail on the properties of bars in the Galaxy Zoo 2 classifications.
The paper has recently been accepted to the Astrophysical Journal, and will appear on the arxiv very shortly.
The main result is a stronger proof than has ever before been seen that secular (that is, very slow) evolution affects the properties of barred galaxies, which grow larger bulges and slow down in their star formation the longer the bars grow (or the older the bars are).
Edit: This paper is now available on the arXiv at http://arxiv.org/abs/1310.2941
Just a quick note to say that the Astronomy & Geophysics article some of us wrote to review the Specialist Discussion we ran at the Royal Astronomical Society in May is now posted on the arxiv. A&G is the magazine of the RAS (so I get a copy, like all RAS members), but also makes some articles free to read for all (Free editors choice articles) – and in this case the entire magazine was made open access.
Here’s the lovely cover art to finish off the post.