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A Group of Scientists Studying Distant Galaxies Needs Your Brain

Citizen Science,Black Holes,Galaxies
Jamie Carreiro
Robin Seemangal
Emma Hutchins
Hattie Taylor
Joey Ellis
April 10, 202015:04 PM

Help astronomers find rare black holes.

Supercluster

Spiral galaxies seen at different inclinations from Earth.

Turns out, you can learn a lot about a spiral galaxy just by looking at its shape. Like how fast it spins, the mass of the black hole at its center, or how much dark matter it contains. If you can describe the way a galaxy’s arms curl, you can describe the galaxy itself.

So why not feed a bunch of galaxy photos into a big computer, and ask it to chart all the spirals? Well… it just so happens that computers, even really sci-fi-level smart ones, are bad at seeing galaxy spirals. That’s where you come in.

Supercluster

Your brain is a better galaxy scanner than the best computer.

The human eye-and-brain combo is an image processing ultra-computer. When it comes to finding patterns in faint, blurry, unclear images, humans can’t be beat. So we’re asking you to use your galaxy scanners (eyes) for the good of all astronomy.

How it works

Supercluster

We need your help tracing each Galaxy's arm.

A group of scientists lead by astrophysicist Dr. Patrick Treuthardt have built a tool that empowers you to use your own eyes to discover new things about spiral galaxies. It’s called Spiral Graph, and Supercluster is joining the effort to recruit citizen scientists for the project. All you need to do is look at images of spiral galaxies and trace their arms. After you’ve traced the arms, and lots of other people trace the arms too, we feed that data into a computer to learn about the galaxy. The collaboration between you and the computers makes this research possible.

Supercluster

The shape of galaxy arms can tell us a lot.

So please join us!

We need your eyes and brain to learn about distant galaxies. There are amazing things we could discover if you help us look — like extremely rare black holes with strange “intermediate” mass. Most black holes are either small (roughly the mass of 10-20 Suns) or supermassive (the mass of a million or billion Suns). But sometimes we find a black hole that’s somewhere in the middle range, maybe 100-100,000 solar masses, and those could tell us a lot about black hole evolution. Less than a dozen of these special black holes have been observed in the entire universe, but you could help us find more.

Help us trace galaxy arms and learn more about our universe at Spiral Graph. This project is among many other citizen science initiatives found on Zooniverse.

Supercluster

With your help we might find new, rare black holes.

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Jamie Carreiro
Robin Seemangal
Emma Hutchins
Hattie Taylor
Joey Ellis
April 10, 202015:04 PM