Our Galaxy Zoo Session at the Boston AAS

As many of you may know, several Galaxy Zoo scientists were at the recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston, USA. This included Chris, Kevin, myself, Carie Cardamone and Brooke Simmons; Lucy Fortson (who recently did her first blog post about a review article we wrote), Alfredo Carpinati (from UCL) and Ivy Wong (who recently moved from Yale back to her native Australia).

Galaxy Zoo volunteer and forum moderator, Alice was also there – and has written about some of it on the forum (under “why I’m going to be a bit quiet for 3 weeks“). Kevin has written some of his AAS highlights for the Planethunters blog.

But nothing has been written yet about our wonderful session on the science from Galaxy Zoo (except from the @galaxyzoo Tweets during the session), so I thought I’d take a bit of time to tell you about it.

It’s been a busy few weeks for me in the lead up to and following the session last Wednesday, so I hope you’ll forgive me for not doing this sooner.

Anyway, below is the title and description we came up with for the session when we proposed it to the AAS. You’ll this session was specifically aimed at highlighting the science results coming out of Galaxy Zoo.

Cosmic Evolution from Galaxy Zoo

Galaxy Zoo (www.galaxyzoo.org) is familiar to many as a hugely successful public engagement project. Hundreds of thousands of members of the public have contributed to Galaxy Zoo which collects visual classifications of galaxies in Sloan Digital Sky Survey images (and most recently Hubble Space Telescope) using an internet tool. Classifications from phase one of Galaxy Zoo (the basic morphology of SDSS galaxies) have recently been made public.

Galaxy Zoo has also shown itself, in a series of peer reviewed papers, to be a fantastic database for the study of galaxy evolution. In this session Galaxy Zoo team members will hi-light some of the most recent scientific results using Galaxy Zoo data, including the first results from phase two of the project (which collected more detailed morphologies).

We were given a 90 minute session during the meeting to do this in, and decided to have 6 speakers in this time. After some deliberation (and constraints based on who could come), we decided on the below speaker list, with Chris agreeing to act as session Chair (so he introduced the session, each of the speakers, and made sure we kept to time!).

  • Barred Spirals on the Red Sequence – an important evolutionary stepping stone? – KLM (that’s me of course; ADS abstract)
  • Bar Lengths in Nearby Disk Galaxies. – Ben Hoyle
  • The Connection between AGN Activity and Bars in Late Type Galaxies – Carie Cardamone (ADS abstract)
  • Black Hole Growth and Host Galaxy Morphology: Two Different Evolutionary Pathways – Kevin Schawinski (ADS abstract)
  • Building the low-mass end of the red sequence with local post-starburst galaxies- Ivy Wong (ADS abstract)
  • Properties of spheroidal post-mergers in the local Universe – Alfredo Carpineti (ADS abstract)

AAS abstract get posted on ADS, so when the links appear I’ll add them above (KLM June 6th: edited above to correct typos, and swapped talk titles).

We were in the “American Ballroom Central” at the conference venue, which was an absolutely massive room. After some technical difficulties with the microphone (very professionally dealt with by Chris), he introduced the session with his normal humour, saying something like “This is a session about the science from Galaxy Zoo. If you’re looking for something on exoplanets you can go to every other session here” (that’s my paraphrasing, with apologies to Chris if it’s not quite right!).

Then I started with a general overview of Galaxy Zoo, and Galaxy Zoo 2, going on to talk about our paper published earlier this year in which we showed bars were more likely to be found in redder disk galaxies (see the “bar” category on the blog). I talked a little bit about the implications this might have for galaxy evolution (“Do Bars Kill Galaxies” again), particularly in light of some results from an HST survey (arxiv link) which suggest that my favourite red spirals might not just be a rare curiousity, but actually be a phase that most galaxies might pass (briefly) through as they turn from blue star forming spirals into red passive ellipticals.

Unfortunately in the end Ben was unable to make it o Boston from Barcelona where he now works as a postdoc, but I was able to include a couple of slides about his main results from the bar drawing project showing that the bars in redder disk galaxies are longer, and that there is a difference in the colour of galaxies with a given length bar depending on if rings or spirals are present.

Then I showed some as yet unpublished results which Ramin Skibba has been working on which show that barred disk galaxies are more clustered than disk galaxies in general – this implies that bars are more likely to form in higher density regions (or in the types of galaxies found in those regions) which is quite interesting. You can expect to be hearing more about that in the next few months as we work on writing it up. Finally I talked about my plans to use the ALFALFA survey going on at Arecibo to make a census of the gas content of barred disk galaxies (the “fuel for future starformation”). There are some exciting early results in that comparison which I hope to be able to tell you about soon.

I have posted the pdf of my slides here.

I’m going to stop here for now, and plan to tell you more about the rest of the talks in session later.


PS. Sorry about the “Zooiniverse” misspelling on the last slide. That’s a tough word to spell in a hurry!

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About karenlmasters

Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Haverford College, USA. Project Scientist for Galaxy Zoo. Spokesperson for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Busy having fun with astronomy!

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