ICRAR (the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research) has received a $350k Citizen Science Grant to build on the website, Galaxy Explorer, which was developed to enlist the help of Australians to classify galaxies. Through Galaxy Explorer over 200,000 galaxies have already been classified.
“The grant will see us create a new Citizen Science website concentrating on galaxies and their properties, including initial determinations of their size, distances and other defining characteristics,” said Dr Luke Davies from ICRAR at the University of Western Australia.
The research project behind Galaxy Explorer is the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) project, and its successor the Wide Area VISTA Extragalactic Survey (WAVES) – two major international programs led by Professor Simon Driver at ICRAR.
“GAMA and WAVES, will help us understand the evolution of mass, energy, and structure, from the Big Bang to the present day,” said Dr Davies.
The astronomers involved in Galaxy Explorer want to understand the origin of energy in the universe.
“We want to understand all the processes in the Universe that generate energy, how this energy is produced, and how that’s evolved over time,” said Dr Davies.
The new site is to identify two million galaxies which will be targeted with the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA/4MOST telescope in Chile. The new website is planned to be launched in National Science Week 2018.
“The sample size is simply too large for us to manage without help from citizen astronomers. Their input will be critical for providing initial estimates of the stellar mass content, shapes, and distances. Allowing us to select the 2 million best galaxies to observe from a parent sample of almost 100 million candidates.”
Participants will use the online tool to learn how to analyse astronomical images, and derive various properties of galaxies which will dictate which objects we then observe,” said Dr Davies.
Once complete, the results will be published as an online database for global astronomers and Citizen Scientists to access. This citizen science programme will help make the WAVES project possible; a key new study ultimately bringing together a wealth of data from the latest ground and space based observatories.
The grant was awarded as part of the Australian Federal Government’s Inspiring Australia program from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science to the team at ICRAR-UWA.
The grant team from the Faculty includes Dr Aaron Robotham, Dr Luke Davies, Assistant Professor Kevin Vinsen and Kirsten Gottschalk.
Lauren Humfrey (UWA Faculty of Engineering Mathematical Sciences) (+61 8) 6488 2260