The Citizen Science project will focus on jellyfish galaxies


A citizen science project will target jellyfish galaxies, the University of Chile has reported.

These galaxies are very rare and difficult to find, to the point that only a few hundred have been identified so far. Some have been found in distant corners of the Universe, while others are much closer, a strange type of galaxies characterized by long tails of gas, which give them an appearance similar to such marine creatures.

A new citizen science project on the Zooniverse.org platform dedicated to these galaxies will allow to broaden their research and understand in detail the complex process of their formation.

The astronomer of the UV Institute of Physics and Astronomy, Yara Jaffe, who is part of the project and has been studying them for years -together with her team- considers them of fundamental importance for understanding the evolution of galaxies, since they represent the beginning of a stage in which they lose the ability to form new stars and consequently die.

This happens thanks to the fact that these galaxies collide at high speed with massive clusters of galaxies that attract them gravitationally. Upon entering the cluster, the galaxies find themselves facing a dense intergalactic medium, which manages to drag the gas they have brought with them (from which they form new stars) forming impressive queues. Eventually the galaxies lose all their gas and stop forming stars, leading to their death.

“They represent a very important stage in the evolution of galaxies, which is why we need to find many more. At first we started to classify them ourselves, but realized it was a huge job for a handful of astronomers. This is how this project was born, in which scientists from Italy, the United Kingdom and Chile participated,” explains Dr Jaffé, who is also a researcher at the CATA Astrophysics Centre.

The project is complemented by an international team of researchers who are part of another large project called GASP (short for GAs Stripping Phenomena), an initiative using the MUSE instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT, at Cerro Paranal , Region de Antofagasta) to observe and study in detail the elusive Medusa galaxies.

Dr. Jaffé explains that a few decades ago it became known of its existence.

“They started reporting and some people called them comet galaxies or tadpole galaxies. One of our goals is to understand the processes of gas removal – the component that galaxies use to form new stars – as we think it is possible to understand the future of galaxies like ours, including their death. When galaxies run out of gas – essentially – they begin to die,” points out the scientist.

hunting for jellyfish

Jaffé explains that a “Looking for jellyfish galaxies” tutorial is included on the Zooniverse project page to help identify them, which allows you to see the differences between different types of interacting galaxies, as well as appreciate the “jellyfish” from different angles to recognize them.

All the material will make it possible to classify this type of galaxies and to carry out statistical studies, to understand in detail where this phenomenon leads, and the fate of the Medusa galaxies once their gas is completely exhausted.

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