New images for Galaxy Zoo! Part 1 – DECaLS

We’re extremely excited to announce the launch of two new image sets today on Galaxy Zoo. Working with some new scientific collaborators over the past few months, we’ve been able to access data from two new sources. This blogpost will go into more details on where the images come from, what you might expect to see, and what scientific questions your classifications will help us answer. Part 2 of this post will discuss the other set of new images from the Illustris simulation.

The Dark Energy Camera Legacy Survey (DECaLS) is a public optical imaging project that follows up on the enormous, groundbreaking work done by the various versions of the SDSS surveys over the past decade. The aim of DECaLS is to use larger telescopes to get deeper images with significantly better data quality than SDSS, although over a somewhat smaller area. The science goals include studies of how both baryons (stars, gas, dust) and dark matter are distributed in galaxies, and particularly in measuring how those ratios change as a galaxy evolves. By adding morphology from Galaxy Zoo, our joint science teams will explore topics including disk structure in lower mass galaxies, better constraints on the rate at which galaxies merge, and gather more data on how the morphology relates to galaxy color and environment.

DECaLS observations use the Blanco telescope, which is located at CTIO in northern Chile at an altitude of 2200m (7200 ft). The telescope has a 4-m aperture mirror, giving it more than three times the collecting area of the SDSS telescope. The camera used for the survey is named DECam, a large-area and extremely sensitive instrument developed for a separate program called the Dark Energy Survey. The camera has 570 megapixels and covers a 2.2 degree field of view – more than 20 times the apparent size of the full moon! The combination of the exquisite dark-sky observing site, a sensitive wide-field camera, and larger telescope all combine to generate the new images, which will eventually include more than 140 million unique sources on the sky when DECaLS is finished.

The Victor M. Blanco 4m telescope, located at CTIO in northern Chile. Image courtesy NOAO.

The Victor M. Blanco 4m telescope, located at CTIO in northern Chile, is carrying out the observations for the DECaLS survey. Image courtesy NOAO.

The DECaLS images in Galaxy Zoo are a smaller group taken from a catalog called the NASA-Sloan Atlas. We’re focusing on somewhat larger and brighter galaxies from the catalog. The reason is that although many of these galaxies have been classified in GZ already via their Sloan images, we’re particularly interested in measuring details like tidal tails from mergers, seeing fainter spiral structures, and separating galaxies that couldn’t be individually resolved in the Sloan data. Here’s a great example of a single galaxy in both SDSS and DECaLS – check out how much clearer the spiral arms are in the new images!

Left: an SDSS image of the galaxy J225336.34+000347.4. Right: a DECaLS image of the same galaxy.

Left: an SDSS image of the galaxy J225336.34+000347.4. Right: a DECaLS image of the same galaxy.

Almost all of the morphology and classification tasks are the same as they were for the Sloan images, so it should be familiar to most of our users. If you have questions or want to discuss anything you see in the new images, please join the discussion with scientists and volunteers on Talk. As always, thanks for your help!

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About Kyle Willett

Kyle Willett is a postdoc and astronomer at the University of Minnesota. He works as a member of the Galaxy Zoo team, and gets to study galaxy morphology and evolution, AGN, blazars, megamasers, citizen science engagement, and many other cool things.

8 responses to “New images for Galaxy Zoo! Part 1 – DECaLS”

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. New images for Galaxy Zoo! Part 1 – DECaLS | Vatican Observatory - Specola Vaticana - Observatorio Vaticano - Observatório do Vaticano - Observatoire du Vatican - Vatikanische Sternwarte - الفاتيكان المرصد - Obserwatorium Watykańskiego - September 22, 2015
  2. Amazing Galaxy of the Week (from DECaLS) | Daily Zooniverse - October 3, 2015
  3. Searching for “tidal debris” in DECaLS images | Galaxy Zoo - November 5, 2015
  4. Galaxy Zoo Highlights from 2015 | Galaxy Zoo - January 11, 2016
  5. Finished with two more sets of galaxy images! | Galaxy Zoo - February 18, 2016
  6. Galaxy Zoo: Classifying Galaxies | Adler Astro-Journalists - March 25, 2016
  7. New galaxies in Galaxy Zoo | Galaxy Zoo - April 7, 2016

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