Seven of the Galaxy Zoo team are gathered in Portsmouth today for our first science meeting. The plan is to go through all of the hard work we’ve been doing to analyise the results and see what we agree on – and what we don’t. Sadly we can’t invite the more than 100,000 people who have contributed to the meeting, but we’ll try to keep you up to date here. I’ve turned off comment moderation, so feel free to join in.
10.07 : Typical organised start to a meeting; currently everyone is running around trying to connect their laptops to the internet while Steven is downstairs printing draft copies of the papers and Edd is making coffee for us visitors. Personally, three donuts have been consumed so I’m waking up. More soon.
10.18 : Starting 18 minutes late is probably a record. Bob has just announced he’s paying for lunch.
10.57 : I’ve just presented my paper, which will be an introduction to the project. The bottom line is that there are many different ways to go from clicks on a website to a final catalogue, and that understanding the biases in each is difficult. In particular, the fraction of galaxies which are classified as elliptical is very sensitive to what decisions we make. However, if we require a high level of agreement we get results that agree with other professional data. Other people can then use the results to do interesting science – over to Steven.
11.07 : Steven’s job has been to work out where ellipticals and spirals live. We know that you’re more likely to find ellipticals in the heart of clusters, but quantifying that in the nearby Universe is hard because you have to look across large regions of sky, which is exactly what Sloan and hence Galaxy Zoo does.
11.18 : …it turns out that comparing to high redshift results is difficult. If I’m understanding the discussion correctly, the problem is defining how dense an environment actually is. Is it enough to count how many neighbours, or do we need to something more complicated?
11:42 : If you take the data at face value, the fraction of galaxies which are classified as elliptical changes rapidly with redshift (distance). This isn’t true if you only look at the brightest galaxies, suggesting it’s just the tendency of people to see faint fuzzy things as elliptical. However, Steven can account for this by correcting to match the results from the closest galaxies of a particular brightness.
12.15 : We’ve moved on from talking about the main population of galaxies to the weird and wonderful. Kevin has been collecting the bluest ellipticals in the sample; remember this was one of the main points of Galaxy Zoo. Most elliptical galaxies formed their stars in the early Universe and are now ‘red and dead’. Elliptical galaxies which are blue might be late developers, allowing us to see stars forming in elliptical galaxies today.
12:39 : Yey, we find lots of blue ellipticals. Many more than anyone else has, and lots of them are pretty close (so we can be sure that we’re not confusing faint fuzzy spirals with ellipticals again). We immediately plunge into an argument as to what these strange objects actually are.
12.45 : I may be becoming flippant (blood sugar from donuts is all but gone) but I think we agree we don’t know what these are, and that that’s what we’re excited about. Bob’s talking next but has run away.
12.47 : He’s back, but we’re back to arguing about what these blue ellipticals are, particularly about how to compare to computer simulations. Bob’ll be talking about our other set of weird galaxies – red spirals.
12.57 : Bob’s now standing up, and we’re still arguing about what the blue ellipticals are. It’s his own fault, though. OK, he’s now moved on.
13.04 : Here there’s more confusion – distinguishing between true spirals, and galaxies which have no spiral arms but do have a disc – is all important. Not all of them can be explained away by this, though.
13.11 : Off to lunch to argue about those results. Back about 2.
14.14 : Back from lunch, and just setting up conference calls to other team members who couldn’t be in Portsmouth today. – Edd
14.18 : One of the other interesting parts to the Zoo is the social science side – looking at the users rather than the galaxies, user demographics, motivations and so on. Jordan’s giving us a rundown. – Edd
14.37 : Jordan’s telling us his plans for surveys of users. It’s not only sounding interesting, but also useful in keeping the Zoo something everyone enjoys using. – Edd
14.43 : And moving on to talk about our plans for the next phase of Galaxy Zoo – Edd
As a who’s who – the last pic, Chris has is back to you all, with Kate on the left. Then it’s Kevin, Daniel and me on the far right. The middle one’s from the other side, and you can see Steven at the back on the left. Bob’s not pictured – he’s the man with the camera. – Edd
15.25 : And Kate is now telling us about the mysteries of spiral handedness… – Edd
16:25 : Which caused a huge argument – all good fun. Some of us have to head home, others to the pub. Thanks for joining us. Chris