I’m a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Minnesota. But before I was distinguished, I grew up in Philadelphia, where I decided in 6th grade that I would go into science while I was helping my grandfather pour molten lead into molds to make fishing sinkers. My bachelor’s and PhD degrees are in physics, but astrophysics was what really kept me up thinkng at night. I’ve worked mostly in the radio part of the spectrum, using telescopes all over the world, plus some work in X-rays and infrared. I’ve studied radio galaxies, since the late 70s when Frazer Owen and I introduced a classification system for tailed radio galaxies. Identifications were pretty painful then, taking about an hour each to get the radio and optical photographs lined up. We’ve come a long way! My students and I also spent some years studying the radiation from the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A and others, producing the first 3D image of an explosion. Today, my work focuses on clusters of galaxies and their connections with large scale structure.
The most interesting course I teach is one called “Nothing” where we explore everything from the vacuum, to the number zero, to blind people seeing nothing, to placebos, to King Lear. I’ve done a lot of K-12 work, training teachers in using hands-on science activities, and do a lot of public education, through lectures, radio and TV interviews, and working with our local Planetarium. Radio Galaxy Zoo is my first citizen science project, and I’m really looking forward to how much we’re going to learn.
Meet Enno Middelberg, Radio Galaxy Zoo science team member from Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany:
I grew up in northern Germany and developed in interest in astronomy only when I finished school. I went to Bonn to study Physics and Astronomy and, after my PhD, moved to Sydney to work as a postdoc. Here’s where I got involved with radio surveys of large portions of the sky, and also where I got involved in radio interferometric observations of large fields with continent-sized baselines (Very Long Baseline Interferometry). After moving back to Bochum, Germany, I got involved with the Radio Galaxy Zoo project, mainly because I just loved the idea and because I was able to quickly contribute to the project by making the images. Also, for a paper a few years back I had classified more than one thousand radio/IR sources the way RGZ users do it now – and I had to do it three times! So I know what it’s like, and I have seen my fair share of radio/IR images in my life. In general I like to fiddle with computers, software, and technology, so every project which requires crunching through, or trying to filter things out of piles of data is interesting.
Meet Anna Kapinska, Radio Galaxy Zoo science team member from the University of Western Australia:
I was born and grew up in Poland, where I also did my undergrad studies in astronomy. Since then astronomy was the force behind my life paths directing me via the Netherlads and the UK to Western Australia where I currently work as a Research Associate. I was introduced to radio astronomy during my masters studies when I learned all the fundamentals, and the tricky bits too, about radio interferometry. After that I moved towards more theoretical understanding of how radio galaxies grow and how they influence our evolving Universe. For that we still need large samples of radio galaxies of various sizes, shapes and luminosities – and here is where the Radio Galaxy Zoo and all your citizen science work is so invaluable!
Currently, I am also strongly involved in producing sky surveys with two fanstastic new radio telescopes, Lofar and MWA – hopefully we will be able to include these radio sky images in Radio Galaxy Zoo at some point too!
Ivy is an Australian astronomer (currently based at CSIRO) who is interested in the how/why galaxies start and stop forming stars. She is currently obsessed with galaxies that have suddenly stopped forming stars (aka ‘post-starburst’ galaxies), blue spheroidal galaxies and galaxy interactions in general. Having worked with the original Galaxy Zoo project, she became super excited with the prospect of helping to launch Radio Galaxy Zoo. She is very keen to find out how the massive radio jets emitting from central supermassive black holes affect its host galaxy as well as neighbouring galaxies.
When not working for astronomy, she is slave to two feline overlords, Princess Pippa and Master Finian. These two can pass for the internet celebrities: Grumpy Cat and Chemistry Cat (although Finian does not approve of glasses and bowties).
To introduce you to the Radio Galaxy Zoo team, we’re doing a series of blog posts written by each team member — in no particular order. Meet Stas Shabala, our team Project Manager from the University of Tasmania, Australia:
I grew up in Tasmania, a gorgeous part of the world which also happens to be the place Grote Reber, the world’s first radio astronomer, called home for 50 years. After finishing university, I made a pilgrimage that these days is more or less standard for young Australians – I moved to the UK. I ended up staying for six years, and it was during my time in Oxford that I became involved with Galaxy Zoo. Normal galaxies are interesting but – given our history- a Tasmanian’s true heart will always be with radio astronomy. That’s why I have such a soft spot for Radio Galaxy Zoo.
Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out why radio galaxies come in so many different shapes, sizes and luminosities. Data from Radio Galaxy Zoo will go a long way to answering these questions. I’ve also had lots of fun using active black holes as beacons to accurately measure positions on Earth. It’s just like navigation by stars, but much more precise because stars move around in the sky a fair bit, whereas black holes don’t. The neat thing is, these measurements make it possible to study all sorts of geophysical processes here on Earth. It’s such a cool concept- using black holes to measure the movement of tectonic plates!