September 23, 2021

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Citizens Science |  Max Planck Society

Citizens Science | Max Planck Society

In the Citizen Science Project “Jellyfish Galaxies”, interested parties can help study the history of these cosmic objects.

Eight examples of jellyfish galaxies. Such images will be provided to participants of the new Juniors project for classification.

Galaxies, like our own galaxy, made up of millions, billions, or hundreds of billions of stars, are the building blocks of the universe on a large scale. They are divided into galaxies in which thousands of galaxies move through a thin, hot, intercalactic gas. The low density of this gas is enough to allow high-speed galaxies to feel a kind of “helmet.” The gas in the galaxy can be “expelled” – like a motorcycle driver, its hair blows backwards. What remains is a galaxy reminiscent of a jellyfish – a “body” of stars and tents made of gas.

Annalisa Billebich and her team at the MBI for Astronomy use computer simulations to study the physical processes involved in the formation of jellyfish galaxies. To do this, they program a model universe that follows our own laws of physics. Stars and galaxies arise and form more and more in contact with each other. For each of these virtual galaxies, its complete history can be reconstructed.

But to study simulated jellyfish galaxies, the research team must first find out which of the countless galaxies is the jellyfish galaxy. Such a model authentication problem is difficult for a computer to solve, while the human brain is relatively easy with the excellent ability to recognize patterns. That’s why people need to determine which galaxies look like jellyfish in simulation.

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Teamwork in the search for jellyfish galaxies

Here it comes Juniors In the game, the world’s largest and most popular site for citizens science. As simulations generate large amounts of data, thousands of volunteers work together on the “Jellyfish Galaxy” project to view a total of 38,000 images. Each of these shows a specific galaxy at a random angle, as well as gas and other galaxies in the region if applicable. Participants decide whether the galaxy looks like a jellyfish or not. The Juniors platform provides guidance on how to detect jellyfish galaxies and feedback on the first classified images. Since each galaxy is rated by at least twenty people in the course of the project, obscure events can be filtered out.

For the identified jellyfish galaxies, Annalisa Billebich and her team went differently with how they formed, how they grew – and with jellyfish unknown galaxies.

The “Jellyfish Clusters” program is available in English, German, and Ivory.