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Radio Galaxy Zoo final sprint !

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Here is a bittersweet announcement that the current first-generation Radio Galaxy Zoo project will be retiring on the 1st May 2019. We are so grateful to have worked with such a productive team of citizen and professional scientists for the past 5.5 years.
To-date, we have made over 2.27 million classifications and published 10 refereed journal articles. We have another 1 submitted and another to be submitted in the next few weeks.

Looking towards the future, we are of course in the process of developing the next-generation of Radio Galaxy Zoo projects. For that, we ask that you stay tune for our future announcements of the suite of Radio Galaxy Zoo 2 projects that we are planning to launch.  Of course, we will be keeping you all informed about our latest RGZ-based follow-up observations (e.g. the Zoo Gems programme with the Hubble Space Telescope). Therefore, this is not the last message from us.

To cap-off this impending retirement, I propose that we make a final RGZ sprint to the finish in the remaining days April 2019 –that is, let’s all try to classify as many sources as we can in the next few weeks!

Thank you very much again and let’s all make a concerted push to the  finish line!

Ivy & Stas

Radio Galaxy Zoo studies cluster environment impact on radio galaxy morphologies

The following blogpost is from Avery Garon who led the publication of Radio Galaxy Zoo’s latest science result. Congratulations to Avery and team!


Radio Galaxy Zoo is starting the new year strong, with another paper just accepted for publication. “Radio Galaxy Zoo: The Distortion of Radio Galaxies by Galaxy Clusters” will appear soon in The Astronomical Journal and is available now as a pre-print on the arXiv: This paper was led by University of Minnesota graduate student Avery Garon and investigates several ways in which the shape of a galaxy’s radio emission is affected by and informs us about the environment in which we find the galaxy.

Like the previous RGZ paper, we are looking for how the radio tails extend into the hot plasma that fills galaxy clusters (the intracluster medium, or ICM). This time, we measure how much the two tails deviate from a straight line, marked in the example below by the value θ. The standard model is that the ICM exerts ram pressure on the galaxy as it travels though the cluster and causes its tails to bend away from the direction of motion. However, while individual clusters have been studied in great detail, no one has had a large enough sample of radio galaxies to statistically validate this model. Thanks to RGZ, we were able to observe the effect of ram pressure as a trend for the bending angle θ to increase for galaxies closer to the center of clusters (where the ICM density is higher) and in higher mass clusters (where the galaxies orbit with higher speeds).


Example source RGZ J080641.4+494629. The magenta arrows extend from the host galaxy identified by RGZ users and terminate at the peaks of the radio emission, defining the bending angle θ. The cyan arrow is used to define an orientation for the galaxy with respect to the cluster.

Because ram pressure causes the tails to bend away from the direction in which the galaxy is travelling, we can use this knowledge to map out the kinds of orbits that these galaxies are on. Unlike planetary orbits, which are nearly circular and all in the same plane, the orbits of galaxies in clusters tend to be randomly distributed in orientation and eccentricity. Our sample of bent radio galaxies shows an even more striking result: they are preferentially found in highly radial orbits that plunge through the center of their clusters, which suggests that they are being bent as their orbits take them through the dense central regions.

Finally, we looked at radio galaxies that were far from clusters. Even though the median bending angle is 0° away from clusters, there is still a small fraction of highly bent galaxies out there. By counting the number of optical galaxies that are near the radio galaxies, we observed a sharp increase in the number of companions within a few hundred kiloparsecs of our bent radio galaxies. This suggests that even outside of true cluster environments, we are still observing bending induced by local overdensities in the intergalactic medium.

Happy 5th birthday Radio Galaxy Zoo!

Happy 5th birthday to Radio Galaxy Zoo!

We have now completed 84% of the project and reached 2.24 million classifications (the equivalent of ~90.2 years of work) thanks to all the hard work from our Radio Galaxy Zooites. So much has happened in the world of Radio Galaxy Zoo this year and many of the new scientific results we reported cannot have happened without your help.

In 2018, we had 4 papers accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, doubling the number of papers that Radio Galaxy Zoo previously published. In addition, we have three more Radio Galaxy Zoo papers that have been submitted this year and are currently undergoing the refereeing process.

As always, our science papers can be freely-accessed and so I encourage you all to check out the following papers if you are interested. Here is the list of papers published this year:
1) Radio Galaxy Zoo: compact and extended radio source classification with deep learning by Vesna Lukic et al
2) Radio Galaxy Zoo: machine learning for radio source host galaxy cross-identification by Matthew Alger et al
3) Radio Galaxy Zoo: CLARAN – a deep learning classifier for radio morphologies
by Chen Wu et al
4) Radio Galaxy Zoo: observational evidence for environment as the cause of radio source asymmetry by Payton Rodman et al

As we summarise the main events this year, it would be remiss of me to not mention the retirement of our previous co-Primary Investigator (co-PI) as well as original driver of this project, Dr Julie Banfield, without whom Radio Galaxy Zoo wouldn’t be where it is today. We continue to be very grateful for her hard work and support. Finally, I would like to thank Dr Stas Shabala for agreeing to be a co-PI on this project after Julie’s departure for greener pastures.

Thank you all very much again for all your help and we shall continue to report on the science that is made possible thanks to you all.  Keep up the awesome work! We hope that you all have a happy end-of-2018 and an excellent 2019.

Ivy & Stas

Radio Galaxy Zoo: what radio lobe shapes tell us about the mutual impact of jets and intergalactic gas

The following blogpost is from Stas Shabala about the Radio Galaxy Zoo paper led by his student, Payton Rodman, exploring the origin of asymmetries observed in a sample of Radio Galaxy Zoo radio galaxies.


Another Radio Galaxy Zoo paper has just been accepted for publication. “Radio Galaxy Zoo: Observational evidence for environment as the cause of radio source asymmetry” will shortly appear in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and is already available on the preprint server ( This paper, led by University of Tasmania undergraduate student Payton Rodman, looks at the properties of lobes in powerful radio galaxies. These lobes are inflated by a pair of jets, emerging in opposite directions from the accretion disk of the black hole at the centre of their host galaxy. Astronomers have known for a while that how big, bright or wide the radio lobes are depends on the properties of the intergalactic gas into which these lobes expand. Small, slow-growing lobes are usually found in galaxy clusters, while their large, rapidly expanding cousins tend to stay away from such dense environments. Radio lobes move about and heat intergalactic gas, and in this way they are thought to be responsible for regulating the formation of stars (by staving off the gravitational collapse of cold gas) in massive galaxies over the last eight billion years. Because of this, understanding how jets and lobes interact with their surroundings is important for understanding the history of the Universe. What complicates matters is that the mechanisms responsible for feeding the black hole and generating jets are also different in these two environments. So does nature or nurture determine what the lobes look like?


Still snapshot of hydrodynamic simulation of asymmetrical radio jets by Patrick Yates from the University of Tasmania. Check out the movie clip here

We decided to use the fact that all radio galaxies start out with two intrinsically identical jets propagating in opposite directions. If the two resultant lobes look different, this could only be due to the interaction with the surrounding gas – in other words, nurture. To test the nurture hypothesis, we used the first tranche of Radio Galaxy Zoo classifications. We selected all sources classified by citizen scientists to contain two clear radio lobes, and subjected this sample to a number of rigorous cuts on brightness, shape, redshift, and availability of environment information. Hot intergalactic gas is usually traced by X-ray observations, but these are unavailable for the majority of the sample. Instead, we used the clustering of optical galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which should be a good proxy for the underlying gas distribution. Then, for each radio galaxy, we compared the properties of the two radio lobes to how many galaxies were found near each of the lobes. We found a clear anti-correlation between the length of the radio lobe, and the number of nearby galaxies – in other words, shorter lobes have more galaxies surrounding them. These results were in excellent agreement with quantitative predictions from models (such as this hydrodynamic simulation made on the University of Tasmania’s supercomputer by PhD student Patrick Yates), which show that it is more difficult for lobes to expand into dense environments. The relationship between the luminosity of the lobes and galaxy clustering was much less clear, again consistent with models which predict a highly non-linear luminosity evolution as the lobes grow.

The excellent agreement between models and observations suggests that it is nurture, not nature, which determines lobe properties. It also opens up a new way of studying radio galaxy environments: though sensitive observations of optical galaxy clustering. With help from Zooites, we hope to expand this work to a much larger Radio Galaxy Zoo sample, which would allow us to probe the finer aspects of jet – environment interaction. Further afield, the ongoing GAMA Legacy ATCA Southern Survey (GLASS) project on the Australia Telescope Compact Array, as well as the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder EMU survey, will use this method to study the physics of black hole jets and the impact they have on their surroundings in a younger Universe.

Radio Galaxy Zoo’s ClaRAN

On the 31 October 2018, Radio Galaxy Zoo published its first end-to-end machine learning system for “Classifying Radio sources Automatically using Neural networks” (ClaRAN). This paper is led by ClaRAN’s developer, Chen Wu, a data scientist at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at the University of Western Australia (ICRAR/UWA), who repurposed the FAST-rCNN algorithm (used by Microsoft and Facebook) to classify radio galaxies. ClaRAN was trained on radio galaxies classified by Radio Galaxy Zoo and so recognises some of the most common radio morphologies that have been classified.

The purpose of ClaRAN is to reduce the number of radio sources that require human visual classification so that future Radio Galaxy Zoo projects will have fewer “boring” sources, thereby increasing the chances of real discoveries by citizen scientists. ClaRAN (and its future cousins) are crucial for future surveys such as the EMU survey which is expected to detect ~70 million radio sources (using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope). While Radio Galaxy Zoo has made visual source classifications much more efficient, we will still need to reduce the total survey sample size to a sample for visual inspection that is less than 1% of the 70 million sources.

How does ClaRAN work? ClaRAN inspects both the radio and coordinate-matched infrared overlay in the same fashion as RGZ Zooites, and then determines the radio source component associations in a similar fashion to the RGZ Data Release 1 (DR1) catalogue. As ClaRAN is still in its prototype stage (–analogous to the capabilities of a toddler), it only understands 3 main classes of radio morphologies — sources which have 1-, 2- or 3- separate radio components. ClaRAN was trained to understand these three different radio morphologies through seeing examples of all three classes from the RGZ DR1 catalogue. The animated gif (from the ICRAR press release) describes how ClaRAN “sees” the example radio galaxy.  Please do not click on the link to the animated gif if you suffer from epilepsy or have any issues with flashing images.

As we look towards the future, we look forward to teaching ClaRAN some of
the more complex and exotic radio galaxy structures. For that to happen, we need to assemble much larger samples of more complex radio morphology  classifications. With your support of Radio Galaxy Zoo, I am sure that we will get there.
Fun fact: did you know that some of the more obscure bugs in the RGZ DR1 catalogue processing was actually found through training ClaRAN? This is because ClaRAN is a good learner and will learn all the small details that we didn’t initially notice.  We only discovered these bugs through some of the funny answers that we got out of some of the early testing of ClaRAN.

Thank you very much again to all our Radio Galaxy Zooites for your support. More information on the ICRAR press release for ClaRAN can be found via this link:





Gems of the Galaxy Zoos: help pick Radio Galaxy Zoo Gems!

Help vote for Radio Galaxy Zoo Gems!

At the Galaxy Zoos (both at Galaxy Zoo & Radio Galaxy Zoo), we are fizzling with excitement as we prepare for observations using the Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument on board the Hubble Space Telescope. These new Hubble maps will have greater resolution than those that we have from the Sloan Digital Sky Server.

As mentioned by Bill’s blogpost, we have been allocated fewer observing slots than our full list of candidates. Therefore, we invite all of you to help shape the observing priorities of our current target list. You will help determine which host galaxies would gain the most from these Hubble observations (and thus have highest priorities on the target list).

The main science targets specific to these Hubble observations are the host galaxies of Green Double Radio-lobed Active Galactic Nuclei (Green DRAGN — pronounced Green Dragon) and Spiral Double
Radio-lobed Active Galactic Nuclei (S-DRAGN).

Figure 1: Example of a Green DRAGN that is also a Hybrid Morphology Radio Source (HyMoRS) found by Radio Galaxy Zoo (Kapinska, Terentev et al 2017)

Green DRAGN — The prominent green appearance in these DRAGN host galaxies come from the strong [OIII] emission line that dominate the emission in the Sloan r-band. Therefore, these galaxies appear very green in a Sloan 3-colour (g,r,i)  image due the lack of equivalently-strong emission in the Sloan g– and i– bands (the blue- and red- filters, respectively).  The Green Pea galaxies (Cardamone et al 2009) from the original Galaxy Zoo project are a class of green galaxies that appear to be dominated
by star formation. On the other hand, the Green Bean galaxies (Schirmer et al 2013) are thought to consists of quasar light echoes (eg Galaxy Zoo’s Hanny’s Voorwerp).  However, the original Green Bean population show little to no emission at radio wavelengths.

In Radio Galaxy Zoo, we have found a population of Green Bean-like galaxies which host bright radio lobes. Therefore, what sort of feedback are galaxies getting from these “radio-active” Green DRAGNs and how do they relate to the other green galaxies and our understanding of galaxy evolution? Figure 1 shows an example of a Green DRAGN that also happened to be a Hybrid Morphology Radio Galaxy
found by Radio Galaxy Zoo and published by team scientist Anna Kapinska in collaboration with citizen scientist Ivan Terentev (see blogpost on their paper).

Figure 2: An example S-DRAGN that is radio galaxy 0313-192 where VLA observations have been overlayed in red over an HST ACS image. (More details can be found in Bill’s paper: Keel et al 2006)

Spiral DRAGN — Typically, radio galaxies with big radio jets and lobes are hosted by early-type galaxies. Spiral galaxies are often thought to not be “mature” or massive enough to host giant radio lobes.  However, a few S-DRAGNs have been found in the past by our very own Bill Keel (Keel et al 2006, see Figure 2) and Minnie Mao (Mao et al 2015).  To shed light on this rare phenomena,
we seek your help through Radio Galaxy Zoo and this observing programme to assemble a more statistically significant number of this rare class of objects. Figure 2 shows a combined HST and VLA map of the S-DRAGN
published by Bill in 2006.

We have to finish this priority selection by the 16th February 2018. So, please help vote now by clicking hereWe have uploaded the targets in batches of 24 and so please click on all the batches for a view of the full target list.  A handy tip for inspecting these images is to ensure that your screen brightness is adjusted to its maximum because many of the host galaxy features can be very faint. 

We thank Radio Galaxy Zooites, Jean and Victor, for their immense help with assembling the priority selection project interface.  You can track what Hubble is observing by proceding to the Hubble archive link or the Hubble Legacy Archive interface here.


Radio Galaxy Zoo finds rare HyMoRS!

The following blogpost is from Anna Kapinska about the Radio Galaxy Zoo paper that she published recently with Radio Galaxy Zooite, Ivan Terentev on the first sample of candidate Hybrid Morphology Radio Sources (HyMoRS) from the 1st year of Radio Galaxy Zoo results.

Radio Galaxy Zoo scores another scientific publication! The paper ‘Radio Galaxy Zoo: A search for hybrid morphology radio galaxies’ has been published today in the Astronomical Journal.  First of all congratulations to everyone, and what wonderful work from all our citizen scientists and the science team! Special thanks go to Ivan Terentev, one of our very active citizen scientists, whose persistent work on finding and collecting HyMoRS in a discussion thread on RadioTalk (link) without doubt earned the second place in the author list of this paper. But of course the publication wouldn’t be possible without all our volunteers, and special thanks are noted in the paper (check out the Acknowledgements on page 14):

This publication has been made possible by the participation of more than 11,000 volunteers in the Radio Galaxy Zoo Project. Their contributions are acknowledged at http://  We thank the following volunteers, in particular, for their comments on the manuscript or active search for candidate RGZ HyMoRS on RadioTalk: Jean Tate, Tsimafei Matorny, Victor Linares Pagán, Christine Sunjoto, Leonie van Vliet, Claude Cornen, Sam Deen, K.T. Wraight, Chris Molloy, and Philip Dwyer.

But what are HyMoRS? HYbrid MOrphology Radio Sources, HyMoRS or hybrids for short, are peculiar radio galaxies that show atypical radio morphologies. That is, radio galaxies which we can resolve in our observations come in two principal flavours: 1) FRI – type; and 2) FRII-type  — named after two scientists who introduced this classification back in 1974, Berney Fanaroff and Julia Riley [link to paper].


Figure 1. Three main types of radio galaxies. FRI type (3C 296, left panel), FRII type (3C 234, right panel), and a HyMoRS that shows a hybrid radio morphology of FRI on its eastern (left) side and FRII on its western (right) side (RGZ J103435.8+251817, middle panel).  The radio emission from the jets is in blue, overlaid on the SDSS true colour images. Credits: Kapinska (based on FIRST/NRAO, SDSS, Leahy+Perley 1991).

Traditionally, FRIs and FRIIs are distinguished by different morphologies observed in radio images, where on the one hand we have archetypal FRIIs showing powerful jets that terminate in so-called hotspots (can be spotted in right panel of Figure 1 as two white bright spots at the ends of the jets), while on the other there are FRIs with their jets often turbulent and brightest close to the host galaxy and its supermassive black hole (left panel of Figure 1). HyMoRS are hybrids, they show both morphologies at the same time, that is they look like FRI on one side and FRII on the other side.  Figure 2 shows two examples of the new HyMoRS candidates that Radio Galaxy Zoo identified in this latest paper.


Figure 2. Two new HyMoRS candidates found with Radio Galaxy Zoo: RGZ J150407.5+574918 (left) and RGZ J103435.8+251817 (right).  The radio emission from the jets is in blue overlaid on the SDSS true colour images. The inserts show zoom-ins on the HyMoRS’s SDSS images of the hosts galaxies.  Credits: Kapinska (based on FIRST/NRAO, SDSS).

How are HyMoRS formed? We still don’t have a very clear answer to this question. The thing is that there may be many reasons why one radio galaxy would have so radically different looking jets. One possibility is that the medium in which the jets travel through (the space around) is different on each side of the galaxy. In this case the FRI morphology could form if the medium is dense or clumpy for one jet, while FRII morphology could form if the medium is smoother or less dense on the other side for the second jet (but watch this space for more work from our science team). But there are also other options. For example, we may simply see the radio galaxy in projection, or we are observing rare events of a radio galaxy switching off, or switching off and on again. The more HyMoRS we know of, the better we can study them and pinpoint the scenarios of how they form.

For example, the science team at the University of Tasmania has produced a simulation of jets from an FRII-type radio galaxy located in the outer regions of a cluster (~550 kpc from the centre) and expanding in a non-uniform cluster environment.  The jet on one side propagates into a much denser medium than the jet on the other side.  The jets are very powerful (10^38 Watts) and the total simulation time is 310 Myr.  The movies display the density changes associated with the jet expansion.  Credit goes to Katie Vandorou, Patrick Yates and Stas Shabala for this simulation (link to simulation).

How rare are HyMoRS? We actually don’t really know, and this is because so far there are very few complete surveys of these radio galaxies. Current estimates indicate that they may be comprising less than 1% of the whole radio galaxy population. We are hoping that with Radio Galaxy Zoo and the new-generation telescopes we will be able to finally pin down the HyMoRS population. And our paper is definitely one big step towards that aim. It’s very exciting as with the fantastic efforts of RGZ we now have 25 new HyMoRS candidates — this could possibly double the numbers on known hybrids!”
So well done everyone and let’s keep up the fantastic work! We couldn’t have done it without you 🙂

Anna, Ivan & the coauthors on this latest paper


The official open access refereed paper can now be found at

The article can also be downloaded from:

A CAASTRO story with embedded animation is now available at:

Shedding light on the mutual alignment of radio sources

The following blogpost is from Omar Contigiani about the Radio Galaxy Zoo paper that he published recently on the cosmic alignment of radio sources.

In the Radio Galaxy Zoo an incredible variety of creatures can be found — as our citizen scientists might know by now, radio sources in the sky can have all sorts of shape and sizes. The most powerful among them are plasma-filled jets emitted by the some of the largest elliptical galaxies in existence. Because of their precise structure, anyone can associate orientations to these sources by simply looking at the directions the jets point at.


Figure 1: Illustration of jet orientations distributed in the sky.  Note that this figure only depicts a small fraction of the total area covered by the observations upon which RGZ is based.  Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Baum & C. O’Dea (RIT), R. Perley & W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

Recently, our scientists have been looking at the directional properties of these fascinating beasts.  If a particular source points in a direction, is it possible that its neighbours also tend to do the same? Because the distances between adjacent objects are (quite literally) astronomical, it seems intuitive to assume that the relative orientations should be random. However, nature always finds subtle ways to mess with our intuition and it turns out that this is currently an open question in astronomy.  Thanks to Radio Galaxy Zoo’s numerous (almost two million) image classifications, the team was able to report the most precise measurement of this effect to date.  The results are available in a scientific article published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society this November.

The analysis performed in the study suggests that relative alignment of radio sources is present on distances which are dubbed as cosmological.  This is because only phenomena related to the history of the Universe as a whole are known to be connected to such large scales.

While this is an exciting step towards an answer, formulating any conclusive statement about this alignment and the reasons behind it appears to be difficult. What drives this effect? Is it related to a shared history or environment? More science needs to be done and more galvanising discoveries are waiting for us just around the corner.

Once again, without the contributions made by our volunteers all over the world, we would not have been so successful in our endeavours.  A big thank you to all our Radio Galaxy Zooites!

However, we have only reached 74% of our classification target. Head to Radio Galaxy Zoo to become involved and you will be contributing to real science being done today and may be co-authoring another great discovery with us!


RGZ team spotlight: Francesco de Gasperin


Meet Francesco de Gasperin, an associate science team member (since 2015) who is very interested in the classifications resulting from Radio Galaxy Zoo

I am a VENI fellow at the Leiden University in the Netherlands. My research is mainly based on developing and exploiting new technologies in radio-astronomy to study active galactic nuclei (AGN), galaxy clusters, galaxies and ultimately everything which emits radio waves. I am part of the LOFAR collaboration and most of my time is invested in the commissioning of this new radio-telescope. I am now leading the effort to calibrate the low band antennas of LOFAR to observe the sky at decameter wavelength. Our plan is to ultimately produce the lowest frequency radio survey ever done.

I did my PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich on a thesis titled: “The impact of radio-emitting supermassive black holes on their environment: the LOFAR view of the Virgo cluster”. During my master I also worked for the Planck mission, a satellite designed to study the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) – the relic radiation from the Big Bang.


What has Francesco and his student, Omar Contigiani  done lately ?

Is the orientation of radio galaxies totally random? Or is it driven by the large scale structure where galaxies are embedded in? Recently, some works on small regions of the sky claimed an intrinsic alignment of radio sources. This is in line with the observed alignment between quasar jets and the surrounding large scale structure at higher redshifts.

With the help of the RGZ we are now able to identify the orientation of a very large number of radio galaxies. This allows us to expand these studies to unprecedented scales, moving from regions of few square degrees to around 10 thousands.



Can we reach 2 million classifications?


Radio Galaxy Zoo is halfway through its fourth year.  We are going through all the classifications and finalizing our 1st data release.  We could not have gotten this far without all of you. From the bottom of our hearts, we THANK YOU.

We have reached 71% completeness and sit just over 1,959,000 classifications.  Can we reach 2 million?

As we did with our 1 million classification milestone, we invite you to classify our 2 million-th Radio Galaxy Zoo supermassive black hole.  We have been working hard on Radio Galaxy Zoo merchandise (mugs, holographic bookmarks, and stickers). These are up for grabs for those who classify near or on number 2 million.

As always, make a note (click on discuss) if you have found something interesting, confusing, or if you have a question.

Start your hunt for active supermassive black holes at Radio Galaxy Zoo.