Search results for The First Volunteer-Inspired Galaxy Zoo Paper is Submitted

The First Volunteer-inspired Galaxy Zoo Paper is Submitted!



 At long last the ‘Peas’ have been submitted to MNRAS (The Monthly  Notices of the  Royal Astronomical Society,).  The ‘Peas’ were  discovered by users right here in  Galaxy Zoo who noticed a strange  class of small green galaxies at redshifts near z=0.2. A dedicated  group of volunteered collected a sample of these galaxies.  Then Kevin Schawinski found an astronomer (Carie [me :)]) to pull them together  and look at them in detail.


We finally met at AAS (the American Astronomical Society) meeting this  January at the Long Beach California convention center.  Chris  Lintott, Jordan Raddick, and Daniel Thomas and I sat down and  discussed the paper draft.  In the ensuing 3 months, I’ve been working  hard at writing up all of our results with the help of all of the co-authors.  The peer review process can take a while, but as the publication process goes forward we’ll  keep you up to date.

Coming Soon: a new blog-post where will lay out the details of what  makes the Peas so exciting. 


Eight Years & the 8th Paper: Green Peas – Living Fossils of Galaxy Evolution

As we approach the 8th anniversary of the Galaxy Zoo project, it is a great opportunity to look back at one of the most fascinating discoveries of citizen science in Galaxy Zoo – the “Green Pea” galaxies. Volunteers on the forum first noted these galaxies due to their peculiar bright green color and small size. Their discovery was published in our 8th paper: ‘Galaxy Zoo Green Peas: discovery of a class of compact extremely star-forming galaxies’ and is noted on the blog here. But the story doesn’t end with their discovery.

Images of Green Peas

Top Row: Green Peas in the original imaging are compact & bright green.
Bottom Row: Green Pea galaxies as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope show patches of starformation.

In the years since the publication of their discovery paper by the Galaxy Zoo Science Team, the Green Peas are beginning to fulfill their promise as a living fossil of galaxy evolution.  Because they aren’t too far away, they provide a unique local laboratory in which we can investigate processes key to the formation and evolution of galaxies in the early universe. They are living ‘fossils,’ undergoing extraordinary, intense starbursts unlike any other galaxies known in the local universe.   Their color is due to a large amount of emission in an oxygen line [OIII]/5007A that made their appearance green in the images.

Follow-up studies of the Green Peas have looked in great detail at their abundances of various elements, something that cannot be done in their high redshift analogs. The results of these studies show that they have energetic outflows of gas and lower oxygen abundances than other typical local galaxies with similar masses. They also suggest what might be responsible for ionizing the gas in the galaxies and producing those bright emission lines (e.g., Wolf-Rayet stars). Their clumpy morphologies (or shapes) have been confirmed and suggest that star formation in the peas occurs in several separate knots throughout the galaxy. Their radio emission implies they have strong magnetic fields, larger than that of the Milky Way. All of these results paint a picture of galaxies very similar to those that formed in the early Universe.


Radio Image

This image shows radio emission detected from a combination (stack) of 32 different Green Pea Galaxies.


Results from studies of these galaxies can provide challenges to commonly accepted models. For example, the strong magnetic fields challenge models that suggest magnetic fields grow slowly over time and observations of the variation in Lyman alpha emission line profiles and strengths challenge models of the dependence of the emission line shape on gas properties in the galaxy. The Green Peas have held up their promise of lending new insights into galaxy evolution by characterizing an active mode of star formation, which contrasts with the typical more passive evolution dominating the local galaxy population. Studies of the Peas have suggested that a galaxy’s evolutionary pathway may depend on stochastic initial conditions, leading insights into our understandings of how galaxies throughout the Universe form.

Peas in the Universe, Goodwill and a History of Zooite Collaboration on the Peas Project

Warning: This “History of the Peas” is rather long. At Carie’s request, Rick wrote a shorter version here.

The SDSS telescope has five colour filters, one of which is green. Like a rainbow played backwards as it splits in a prism, the colours from all filters are shown to us all at once, so we see them mixed and averaged out – usually twinkling blue star formation, golden ellipticals, and red faraway objects or nearby stars. When an object moves relative to Earth while the SDSS telescope images it, sometimes only gets through the green filter at one given time and thus leaves a pure green image in our pictures – which is usually the case with a camera glitch, one of the three images of asteroids, or satellite trails.

Some objects, though, seem to be green in their own right. We were all so busy in the first month of Galaxy Zoo trying to work out what pretty much anything was, and getting used to a hundred and one things new and strange, that not all of us (certainly not me) paid much attention to the random greenness. Those who did found a great variety of forms:


Read More…

Pea Hunting preamble

Greetings from the ESO Guest House, in Santiago de Chile! As I described in a blog post) a while ago, I am here on a mission to hunt for more distant counterparts to the ‘Peas’) which were first identified by Galaxy Zoo participants.

This is the first Galaxy Zoo initiated observing project to use an ESO telescope, so I thought I would take the opportunity to give you a bit more of an insight in to an ESO observing trip. ESO is the European Southern Observatory, which operates observatories in Chile in order to provide European astronomers with access to the Southern sky. These are among the most technologically advanced and scientifically productive observatories in the world. ESO’s premier facility is the, imaginatively named, Very Large Telescope (VLT), located at Paranal observatory in the middle of the Atacama desert. The VLT actually comprises four massive telescopes which are usually used separately, although their light can be combined for special observations.

For our observations we don’t need quite so much light-collecting power, so will be using the smaller, but still very capable, New Technology Telescope (NTT) at La Silla observatory, also in the Atacama, but in its slightly more hospitable Southern outskirts.

ESO Guesthouse

The ESO Guesthouse

I, and my observing colleague Seb Foucaud, arrived in Santiago earlier today after long journeys from the UK and Taiwan, respectively. ESO is an extremely well organised operation and really looks after visiting astronomers. We were met at the airport by an ESO representative and driven to the Guest House in the affluent Las Condes suburb of Santiago. The Guest House is renowned for its hospitality, friendly staff, good food and the traditional Pisco Sour cocktail before dinner. Most visiting astronomers stay here for one night before and after their observing run. Tomorrow morning we fly to North to La Serena and then drive to La Silla observatory to begin the preparations for our run, which starts on Thursday night. Right now I’d better get some much needed sleep. I’ll give you an update when we get to the observatory.

She's an Astronomer: Vardha Nicola Bennert

Nicola Bennert on the beach in Santa Barbara.

Vardha Nicola Bennert by the ocean in Santa Barbara (a 5 minute walk from her office at UCSB), May 2009.

Dr. Vardha Nicola Bennert is a postdoctoral researcher (“postdoc”) in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of California (UC) in Santa Barbara.  Originally from the Ruhr area in Germany, she completed her PhD in 2005 on the astrophysics of active galaxies at the Ruhr-University of Bochum. She then moved to the US for a first postdoc at UC in Riverside, before moving to Santa Barbara in 2008.

Dr. Bennert’s research interests focus on the central region of “active galaxies” (the black hole and the so-called narrow- and broad-line regions immediately around the black hole) and its relation to the host galaxy. She enjoys working in the stimulating research environment at UCSB and living in Santa Barbara – especially because the sun is always shining and the beach is so close! But she also misses her friends and family in Germany. In her free time, she loves to explore the outdoors of southern California, and is also on an inward journey, integrating meditation into her everyday life.

  • How did you first hear about Galaxy Zoo?

By coincidence! I was at UC Riverside and had an upcoming observing run at the 3m Shane telescope at Lick observatory when Prof. Bill Keel contacted my supervisor, Prof. Gabriela Canalizo, asking whether we could get a spectrum of “Hanny’s Voorwerp”. I agreed, went observing, had several clear nights and was able to get the spectrum. I was immediately intrigued by the object as the spectrum looked very familiar to me – very much like the narrow-line regions of active galaxies that I studied intensively during my PhD thesis, except that there was no evidence of an active galactic nucleus in the center!

  • What has been your main involvement in the Galaxy Zoo project?

I helped in the reduction, analysis, and interpretation of the  spectroscopic data which were integrated in the discovery paper of the Voorwerp. Later, by another coincidence, the team was looking for someone with experience in reducing HST images, which I have. So I obtained, reduced and analyzed HST images of the “peas” discovered in the Galaxy Zoo project. This formed part of another paper in which I helped in the interpretation of the results.

  • What do you like most about being involved in Galaxy Zoo?

It is great that so many citizen astronomers are involved, and that it has such a strong public outreach component. For me, public outreach is not only our duty as researchers who are basically funded through the tax payers’ money but something that I enjoy a lot. I love seeing how people get excited about astronomy and the research that I am doing.

  • What do you think is the most interesting astronomical question Galaxy Zoo will help to solve?

Galaxy Zoo has proved its value in revealing rare and interesting objects like the Voorwerp, through inspection of images by eye, showing the great advantage of  humans over robots! I think this, more than answering a particular question for which Galaxy Zoo was set up, will be the lasting legacy. These rare objects have the potential to provide us with new and surprising insights.

  • How/when did you first get interested in Astronomy?

As a child, I loved looking at the stars, and was fascinated by the books by Prof. Stephen W. Hawking, although I did not understand much at the time… However, this did not turn me off from pursuing a scientific career. On the contrary, I always found it exciting to be at the edge of my understanding and learn new things all the time.

  • What (if any) do you think are the main barriers to women’s involvement in Astronomy?

I do not like the very competitive way in which scientific results are promoted. Personally, I think that it must be difficult for women to have children while pursuing an astronomical career, since both tasks are quite time demanding. But of course, there are many women in astronomy who prove that it is possible.

  • Do you have any particular role models in Astronomy?

My PhD advisor, Prof. Hartmut Schulz, had a strong influence on me. I always considered him to be one of those “old-fashioned” professors who not only know so much about astronomy, but who have a profound general education with the emphasis on thinking for one’s own. Prof. Schulz sadly died in August 2003. I remember him gratefully for having been my “Doktorvater” in the truest sense of the word.

Also, my current supervisor at UCSB, Prof. Tommaso Treu, is a constant inspiration – he is not only very smart and extremely effective, but he is also always joyful, full of energy, and helps his students to make the best out of their potential.

This post is part of the ongoing She’s an Astronomer series on the Galaxy Zoo Blog in support of the IYA2009 cornerstone project of the same name (She’s an Astronomer).

This is the second post of the series, last month we interviewed Hanny Van Arkel (Galaxy Zoo volunteer and finder of Hanny’s Voorwerp).

Next in the series: Alice Sheppard (forum moderator).

She's an Astronomer: Hanny van Arkel


Hanny’s interview in het Nederlands

Hanny van Arkel is a 25 year old teacher, who lives in the South East of the Netherlands with her German Shepherd, Janey. She plays guitar and at the moment she teaches music in a primary school in Heerlen, where she also works on science boxes (boxes of science experiments for kids) and is a general stand-in. Hanny discovered what is now known as “Hanny’s Voorwerp” while classifying galaxies on Galaxy Zoo, back in 2007. She writes about her adventures since then on (Picture Credit: H. van Arkel)

  • How did you first hear about Galaxy Zoo?

I have a passion for music and play guitar myself. Brian May (Queen’s guitarist) is one of the people I admire for his music and for what he writes on his website, When the project had just started, Brian wrote about it there, saying you could help scientists by sorting through these beautiful pictures. So that’s when I thought to check it out.

  • What has been your main involvement in the Galaxy Zoo project?

That would be discovering “Hanny’s Voorwerp” and everything that happened ever since. I still classify galaxies as well, but mostly I ‘spread the word’ by talking to the (international) media, I give lectures about the Voorwerp and Galaxy Zoo and I participate in events, for example.

  • What do you like most about being involved in Galaxy Zoo?

One of the things I still like is the fact that people without a scientific background can actually contribute to real scientific research here. And personally I get a lot back from it as well and then I’m not even talking about all the fun stuff I get to do. I’ve learned a lot about astronomy in general and the English language for that matter and I met some of my best friends through the Galaxy Zoo meet-ups.

  • What do you think is the most interesting astronomical question Galaxy Zoo will help to solve?

Well, besides what the investigations of “Hanny’s Voorwerp” will bring, I’m also very curious as to what the “peas” exactly are, to just name two I’m involved in. But it’s a hard question actually, as there are so many things to learn from this project and it’s such a success… who knows what we’ll find out in the future?!

  • How/when did you first get interested in Astronomy?

I’ve always been eager to learn and I liked all the subjects in school. I never had ‘astronomy’ as a subject though, but I do remember a little project about it in my primary school. However, I had always appreciated the night sky, even though I don’t have a telescope or anything. What really got me interested was Galaxy Zoo, back in the summer of 2007.

  • What (if any) do you think are the main barriers to women’s involvement in Astronomy?

Are there? I mean, I know that only approximately a quarter of all professional astronomers are woman, but I can’t think of something that would’ve stopped me to be honest.

  • Do you have any particular role models in Astronomy?

Yes, I’ve met a lot of people the past two years, who I admire. First of all, the members of the Galaxy Zoo Team. Besides coming up with this great idea and obviously working hard for it, they make sure the volunteers feel a part of it all. They take time to explain things in an understandable way, for instance. I also have respect for everything Pamela Gay does, she’s a very good example of a successful woman in astronomy. Furthermore I did a lecture together with Cees de Jager (website in Dutch) once, and it was great to see someone being so devoted to astronomy as he was. Patrick Moore, obviously. And Brian May, for ‘going back to school’ after all those years. And I recently worked with a few people from ASTRON (the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) and thought the way Joeri van Leeuwen taught kids about pulsars was very inspiring. To name just a few.

Hanny’s interview in het Nederlands