Black holes are found at the centre of most, if not all, galaxies. The bigger the galaxy, the bigger the black hole and the more sensational the effect it can have on the host galaxy. These supermassive black holes drag in nearby material, growing to billions of times the mass of our sun and occasionally producing spectacular jets of material traveling nearly as fast as the speed of light.
These jets often can’t be detected in visible light, but are seen using radio telescopes. Astronomers need your help to find these jets and match them to the galaxy that hosts them. With Galaxy Zoo Radio, citizen scientists tag radio jets shooting out from galaxies. The team then uses this information to understand galaxy evolution and how their central black holes form and evolve over time. The sheer scale of the jets is awe inspiring.
Galaxy Zoo Radio is part of Zooniverse. The world’s leading ‘citizen science’ platform brings together people from all walks of life, from all over the world, to answer our biggest global challenges.
In 2007 a group of astronomers wanted to use the million galaxy Sloan Digital Sky Survey data set to understand galaxy evolution. But in order to do that, first they needed to know the galaxy type for each galaxy: was it a spiral, elliptical or merger? It would have taken the small research team more than their professional lifetimes combined to classify all the galaxies. Instead, they decided to try an experiment: what if they placed the data online and crowdsourced the effort?
The experiment was an amazing success. In the first hours, they were getting 50,000 classifications per hour. In the first year they were able to get enough classifications to complete the entire data set and tackle their research questions. Today GalaxyZoo.org still goes strong, with new data sets and questions to answer.
Ten years later, Zooniverse has expanded from Galaxy Zoo to over 110 citizen science projects across the disciplines – including physics, ecology, cancer research, climate science, arts, humanities, history, biomedical research, and more.
Zooniverse provides the tools for researchers to ‘unlock their data’ by crowdsourcing the tagging, annotation, marking and transcription of images, video or audio data. Projects often work in concert with machine learning methods to most efficiently process these large data sets, all the while prioritising providing an engaging and valuable experience for volunteers. The community has grown to over 1.6 million registered volunteers working directly with hundreds of researchers around the world – and has led to many transformative discoveries.
AtlasAction: If you’re interested in supermassive black holes, get classifying now.
Learn more ► Galaxy Zoo Radio was mapped by Dr. Laura Trouille, Senior Director of Zooniverse in her AtlasChart Top 5: Life, the Zooniverse and everything.
Zooniverse info for .
Ivy Wong, University of Western Australia