Astronomers want your help to find cosmic jellyfish galaxies


Eight examples of jellyfish galaxies.  Such images are presented to the participants of the new Zooniverse project for classification.
Eight examples of jellyfish galaxies. Such images are presented to the participants of the new Zooniverse project for classification. IllustrateNG Collaboration

Galaxies come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and we still have a lot to learn about how they form and grow. An open mystery surrounds the formation of jellyfish galaxies, named because of their long tails of gas that look like a jellyfish trap. Now, a new project is inviting the public to help research these cosmic jellies by identifying targets for further study.

Jellyfish galaxies form in galaxy clusters, which are clusters of galaxies that also contain hot gas in the space between them. It is hot intergalactic dust that creates a “headwind” when a fast-moving galaxy passes through it, causing the galaxy to leave a trail of gas behind it as it moves. But there are many unknowns about these galaxies, such as how quickly tails form and how long they last, or how large a cluster must be to support them.

To address these questions, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have used computers to simulate a virtual universe to observe galaxies very massive as part of their cosmological jellyfish project. But before they can study jellyfish galaxies in their simulations, they need to identify them—and that’s something that’s easy for a human to do, but hard for a computer. Humans are excellent at pattern recognition, so they can more easily identify things that look like jellyfish, and the researchers hope to use the public’s input to help them identify and label their galaxies.

“There is nothing like the human eye to identify unique shapes,” said one of the researchers on the project website. “We hope that you will join this effort to find jellyfish galaxies so that we can better understand them!”

The project contains the 38,000 images that are needed to search for jellyfish. Volunteers can use the Zooniverse platform to view images of galaxies, which they then identify as showing or not showing the jellyfish galaxy. Each image will be graded by at least twenty participants to get the most consistent results, then the researchers will know which galaxies they should focus their study on.

If you want to participate, you can go here new website And take a tutorial, then start classifying.




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