Remarkable Discoveries Underway – Citizen Scientists fire up Radio Galaxy Zoo
Radio Galaxy Zoo participants have been swamping the Science Team with an incredible number of interesting objects via Talk. Many of these are challenging our understanding of how radio galaxies work, both at their launching sites in supermassive black holes, and in the ways that the ejected jets of radio plasma interact with their environment.
We’ll be highlighting some of these curious discoveries in subsequent blogs, but here’s a recently found one that’s just “too good to be true.”
Today, we know that a galaxy’s redshift (the measure of how fast it is moving away from us — we use z = velocity/speed of light, approximately) is an excellent indicator of distance. This is due to the overall expansion of the Universe. So a galaxy with z=0.049 is moving away at 14,700 km/s, and is located about 650 million light years away, while a galaxy with z=0.26 is moving at about 89,000 km/s and is 3 billion light years away.
How, then, could two such galaxies each be a source of radio emission which appear to be connected with a thin radio filament? That’s exactly what the following picture shows, where the optical picture, in green, is from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) , and the purple structure, outlined in white contours, is radio emission from the Faint Images of the Radio Sky at Twenty cm (FIRST, from the Very Large Array).
Radio Galaxy Zoo participants have looked at approximately 40,000 systems so far, so in such a large collection, this unusual object is likely just a coincidence, rather than some failure in our understanding of cosmic expansion. However, it would be nice to get some higher resolution radio images to see what the structure really looks like.
If you haven’t given Radio Galaxy Zoo a try yet – please join us at http://radio.galaxyzoo.org. We’re finding all kinds of fascinating new structures, while simultaneously creating a large database matching up radio emission with the supermassive black holes from which they were born.