Citizen Scientists Aid Astronomers

The Science Teacher, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Citizen Scientists Aid Astronomers


Some 37,000 citizen scientists combed through 430,000 images to help an international team of researchers discover 29 new gravitational lens candidates. Gravitational lens systems are massive galaxies that act like special lenses. Their gravity bends the light coming from a distant galaxy in the background. Dark matter around these massive lens galaxies also contributes to this lensing effect, and so studying these gravitational lenses gives scientists a way to study this exotic matter that emits no light.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Only about 500 gravitational lenses have been discovered to date, so it made sense for researchers to call on extra eyes to help scour through the mountain of images taken from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey (CFHTLS). Details of the discoveries were to be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

"Computer algorithms have been somewhat successful in identifying gravitational lenses, but they can miss lensed images that appear similar to other features commonly found in galaxies, for example the blue spiral arms of a spiral galaxy," says Anupreeta More of the University of Tokyo's Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe. …

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