Publications by Chris Lintott
Galaxy Zoo: An independent look at the evolution of the bar fraction over the last eight billion years from HST-COSMOS
We measure the redshift evolution of the bar fraction in a sample of 2380 visually selected disc galaxies found in Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images. The visual classifications used to identify both the disc sample and to indicate the presence of stellar bars were provided by citizen scientists via the Galaxy Zoo: Hubble (GZH) project. We find that the overall bar fraction decreases by a factor of two, from 22+/-5% at z=0.4 (tlb = 4.2 Gyr) to 11+/-2% at z=1.0 (tlb = 7.8 Gyr), consistent with previous analysis. We show that this decrease, of the strong bar fraction in a volume limited sample of massive disc galaxies [stellar mass limit of log(Mstar/Msun) > 10.0], cannot be due to redshift dependent biases hiding either bars or disc galaxies at higher redshifts. Splitting our sample into three bins of mass we find that the decrease in bar fraction is most prominent in the highest mass bin, while the lower mass discs in our sample show a more modest evolution. We also include a sample of 98 red disc galaxies. These galaxies have a high bar fraction (45+/-5%), and are missing from other COSMOS samples which used SED fitting or colours to identify high redshift discs. Our results are consistent with a picture in which the evolution of massive disc galaxies begins to be affected by slow (secular) internal process at z~1. We discuss possible connections of the decrease in bar fraction to the redshift, including the growth of stable disc galaxies, mass evolution of the gas content in disc galaxies, as well as the mass dependent effects of tidal interactions.
Journal of Surgical Research (2013)
Background: Validated methods of objective assessments of surgical skills are resource intensive. We sought to test a web-based grading tool using crowdsourcing called Crowd-Sourced Assessment of Technical Skill. Materials and methods: Institutional Review Board approval was granted to test the accuracy of Amazon.com's Mechanical Turk and Facebook crowdworkers compared with experienced surgical faculty grading a recorded dry-laboratory robotic surgical suturing performance using three performance domains from a validated assessment tool. Assessor free-text comments describing their rating rationale were used to explore a relationship between the language used by the crowd and grading accuracy. Results: Of a total possible global performance score of 3-15, 10 experienced surgeons graded the suturing video at a mean score of 12.11 (95% confidence interval [CI], 11.11-13.11). Mechanical Turk and Facebook graders rated the video at mean scores of 12.21 (95% CI, 11.98-12.43) and 12.06 (95% CI, 11.57-12.55), respectively. It took 24 h to obtain responses from 501 Mechanical Turk subjects, whereas it took 24 d for 10 faculty surgeons to complete the 3-min survey. Facebook subjects (110) responded within 25 d. Language analysis indicated that crowdworkers who used negation words (i.e., "but," "although," and so forth) scored the performance more equivalently to experienced surgeons than crowdworkers who did not (P < 0.00001). Conclusions: For a robotic suturing performance, we have shown that surgery-naive crowdworkers can rapidly assess skill equivalent to experienced faculty surgeons using Crowd-Sourced Assessment of Technical Skill. It remains to be seen whether crowds can discriminate different levels of skill and can accurately assess human surgery performances. © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
(Abridged) The effective extinction law (attenuation behavior) in galaxies in the emitted ultraviolet is well known only for actively star-forming objects and combines effects of the grain properties, fine structure in the dust distribution, and relative distributions of stars and dust. We use GALEX, XMM Optical Monitor, and HST data to explore the UV attenuation in the outer parts of spiral disks which are backlit by other UV-bright galaxies, starting with candidates provided by Galaxy Zoo participants. Our analysis incorporates galaxy symmetry, using non-overlapping regions of each galaxy to derive error estimates on the attenuation measurements. The entire sample has an attenuation law close to the Calzetti et al. (1994) form; the UV slope for the overall sample is substantially shallower than found by Wild et al. (2011), a reasonable match to the more distant galaxies in our sample but not to the weighted combination including NGC 2207. The nearby, bright spiral NGC 2207 alone gives accuracy almost equal to the rest of our sample, and its outer arms have a very low level of foreground starlight. This "grey" law can be produced from the distribution of dust alone, without a necessary contribution from differential escape of stars from dense clouds. The extrapolation needed to compare attenution between backlit galaxies at moderate redshifts, and local systems from SDSS data, is mild enough to allow use of galaxy overlaps to trace the cosmic history of dust. For NGC 2207, the covering factor of clouds with small optical attenuation becomes a dominant factor farther into the ultraviolet, which opens the possibility that widespread diffuse dust dominates over dust in star-forming regions deep into the ultraviolet. Comparison with published radiative-transfer models indicates that the role of dust clumping dominates over differences in grain populations, at this spatial resolution.
Citizen science, in which volunteers work with professional scientists to conduct research, is expanding due to large online datasets. To plan projects, it is important to understand volunteers' motivations for participating. This paper analyzes results from an online survey of nearly 11,000 volunteers in Galaxy Zoo, an astronomy citizen science project. Results show that volunteers' primary motivation is a desire to contribute to scientific research. We encourage other citizen science projects to study the motivations of their volunteers, to see whether and how these results may be generalized to inform the field of citizen science.
Planet Hunters. VI: An Independent Characterization of KOI-351 and Several Long Period Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archival Data
We report the discovery of 14 new transiting planet candidates in the Kepler field from the Planet Hunters citizen science program. None of these candidates overlapped with Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs) at the time of submission. We report the discovery of one more addition to the six planet candidate system around KOI-351, making it the only seven planet candidate system from Kepler. Additionally, KOI-351 bears some resemblance to our own solar system, with the inner five planets ranging from Earth to mini-Neptune radii and the outer planets being gas giants; however, this system is very compact, with all seven planet candidates orbiting $\lesssim 1$ AU from their host star. A Hill stability test and an orbital integration of the system shows that the system is stable. Furthermore, we significantly add to the population of long period transiting planets; periods range from 124-904 days, eight of them more than one Earth year long. Seven of these 14 candidates reside in their host star's habitable zone.
We use multi-wavelength (0.12 - 500 micron) photometry from Herschel-ATLAS, WISE, UKIDSS, SDSS and GALEX, to study 23 nearby spheroidal galaxies with prominent dust lanes (DLSGs). DLSGs are considered to be remnants of recent minor mergers, making them ideal laboratories for studying both the interstellar medium (ISM) of spheroids and minor-merger-driven star formation in the nearby Universe. The DLSGs exhibit star formation rates (SFRs) between 0.01 and 10 MSun yr^-1, with a median of 0.26 MSun yr^-1 (a factor of 3.5 greater than the average SG). The median dust mass, dust-to-stellar mass ratio and dust temperature in these galaxies are around 10^7.6 MSun yr^-1, ~0.05% and ~19.5 K respectively. The dust masses are at least a factor of 50 greater than that expected from stellar mass loss and, like the SFRs, show no correlation with galaxy luminosity, suggesting that both the ISM and the star formation have external drivers. Adopting literature gas-to-dust ratios and star formation histories derived from fits to the panchromatic photometry, we estimate that the median current and initial gas-to-stellar mass ratios in these systems are ~4% and ~7% respectively. If, as indicated by recent work, minor mergers that drive star formation in spheroids with (NUV-r)>3.8 (the colour range of our DLSGs) have stellar mass ratios between 1:6 and 1:10, then the satellite gas fractions are likely >50%.
Galaxy Zoo 2: detailed morphological classifications for 304,122 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
We present the data release for Galaxy Zoo 2 (GZ2), a citizen science project with more than 16 million morphological classifications of 304,122 galaxies drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Morphology is a powerful probe for quantifying a galaxy's dynamical history; however, automatic classifications of morphology (either by computer analysis of images or by using other physical parameters as proxies) still have drawbacks when compared to visual inspection. The large number of images available in current surveys makes visual inspection of each galaxy impractical for individual astronomers. GZ2 uses classifications from volunteer citizen scientists to measure morphologies for all galaxies in the DR7 Legacy survey with m_r>17, in addition to deeper images from SDSS Stripe 82. While the original Galaxy Zoo project identified galaxies as early-types, late-types, or mergers, GZ2 measures finer morphological features. These include bars, bulges, and the shapes of edge-on disks, as well as quantifying the relative strengths of galactic bulges and spiral arms. This paper presents the full public data release for the project, including measures of accuracy and bias. The majority (>90%) of GZ2 classifications agree with those made by professional astronomers, especially for morphological T-types, strong bars, and arm curvature. Both the raw and reduced data products can be obtained in electronic format at http://data.galaxyzoo.org .
The study of galaxies has changed dramatically over the past few decades with the advent of large-scale astronomical surveys. These large collaborative efforts have made available high-quality imaging and spectroscopy of hundreds of thousands of systems, providing a body of observations which has significantly enhanced our understanding not only of cosmology and large-scale structure in the universe but also of the astrophysics of galaxy formation and evolution. Throughout these changes, one thing that has remained constant is the role of galaxy morphology as a clue to understanding galaxies. But obtaining morphologies for large numbers of galaxies is challenging; this topic, "Morphology in the era of large surveys", was the subject of a recent discussion meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society, and this "Astronomy and Geophysics" article is a report on that meeting.
Planet Hunters. V. A Confirmed Jupiter-Size Planet in the Habitable Zone and 42 Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archive Data
We report the latest Planet Hunter results, including PH2 b, a Jupiter-size (R_PL = 10.12 \pm 0.56 R_E) planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a solar-type star. PH2 b was elevated from candidate status when a series of false positive tests yielded a 99.9% confidence level that transit events detected around the star KIC 12735740 had a planetary origin. Planet Hunter volunteers have also discovered 42 new planet candidates in the Kepler public archive data, of which 33 have at least three transits recorded. Most of these transit candidates have orbital periods longer than 100 days and 20 are potentially located in the habitable zones of their host stars. Nine candidates were detected with only two transit events and the prospective periods are longer than 400 days. The photometric models suggest that these objects have radii that range between Neptune to Jupiter. These detections nearly double the number of gas giant planet candidates orbiting at habitable zone distances. We conducted spectroscopic observations for nine of the brighter targets to improve the stellar parameters and we obtained adaptive optics imaging for four of the stars to search for blended background or foreground stars that could confuse our photometric modeling. We present an iterative analysis method to derive the stellar and planet properties and uncertainties by combining the available spectroscopic parameters, stellar evolution models, and transiting light curve parameters, weighted by the measurement errors. Planet Hunters is a citizen science project that crowd-sources the assessment of NASA Kepler light curves. The discovery of these 43 planet candidates demonstrates the success of citizen scientists at identifying planet candidates, even in longer period orbits with only two or three transit events.
Measuring the conceptual understandings of citizen scientists participating in zooniverse projects: A first approach
Astronomy Education Review 12 (2013)
The Zooniverse projects turn everyday people into "citizen scientists" who work online with real data to assist scientists in conducting research on a variety of topics related to galaxies, exoplanets, lunar craters, and solar flares, among others. This paper describes our initial study to assess the conceptual knowledge and reasoning abilities of citizen scientists participating in two Zooniverse projects: Galaxy Zoo and Moon Zoo. In order to measure their knowledge and abilities, we developed two new assessment instruments, the Zooniverse Astronomical Concept Survey (ZACS) and the Lunar Cratering Concept Inventory (LCCI). We found that citizen scientists with the highest level of participation in the Galaxy Zoo and Moon Zoo projects also have the highest average correct scores on the items of the ZACS and LCCI. However, the limited nature of the data provided by Zooniverse participants prevents us from being able to evaluate the statistical significance of this finding, and we make no claim about whether there is a causal relationship between one's participation in Galaxy Zoo or Moon Zoo and one's level of conceptual understanding or reasoning ability on the astrophysical topics assessed by the ZACS or the LCCI. Overall, both the ZACS and the LCCI provide Zooniverse's citizen scientists with items that offer a wide range of difficulties. Using the data from the small subset of participants who responded to all items of the ZACS, we found evidence suggesting the ZACS is a reliable instrument (α=0.78), although twenty-one of its forty items appear to have point biserials less than 0.3. The work reported here provides significant insight into the strengths and limitations of various methods for administering assessments to citizen scientists. Researchers who wish to study the knowledge and abilities of citizen scientists in the future should be sure to design their research methods to avoid the pitfalls identified by our initial findings. © 2013 The American Astronomical Society.
ASTRONOMY & GEOPHYSICS 54 (2013) 37-38
Erratum: Planet hunters. V. A confirmed jupiter-size planet in the habitable zone and 42 planet candidates from the kepler archive data (ApJ (2013) 776 (10))
Astrophysical Journal 778 (2013)
In this paper, we use the Galaxy Zoo 2 dataset to study the behavior of bars in disk galaxies as a function of specific star formation rate (SSFR), and bulge prominence. Our sample consists of 13,295 disk galaxies, with an overall (strong) bar fraction of $23.6\pm 0.4\%$, of which 1,154 barred galaxies also have bar length measurements. These samples are the largest ever used to study the role of bars in galaxy evolution. We find that the likelihood of a galaxy hosting a bar is anti-correlated with SSFR, regardless of stellar mass or bulge prominence. We find that the trends of bar likelihood and bar length with bulge prominence are bimodal with SSFR. We interpret these observations using state-of-the-art simulations of bar evolution which include live halos and the effects of gas and star formation. We suggest our observed trends of bar likelihood with SSFR are driven by the gas fraction of the disks; a factor demonstrated to significantly retard both bar formation and evolution in models. We interpret the bimodal relationship between bulge prominence and bar properties as due to the complicated effects of classical bulges and central mass concentrations on bar evolution, and also to the growth of disky pseudobulges by bar evolution. These results represent empirical evidence for secular evolution driven by bars in disk galaxies. This work suggests that bars are not stagnant structures within disk galaxies, but are a critical evolutionary driver of their host galaxies in the local universe ($z<1$).
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 420 (2012) 1684-1692
We present a study of local post-starburst galaxies (PSGs) using the photometric and spectroscopic observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the results from the Galaxy Zoo project. We find that the majority of our local PSG population have neither early- nor late-type morphologies but occupy a well-defined space within the colour-stellar mass diagram, most notably, the low-mass end of the 'green valley' below the transition mass thought to be the mass division between low-mass star-forming galaxies and high-mass passively evolving bulge-dominated galaxies. Our analysis suggests that it is likely that local PSGs will quickly transform into 'red', low-mass early-type galaxies as the stellar morphologies of the 'green' PSGs largely resemble that of the early-type galaxies within the same mass range. We propose that the current population of PSGs represents a population of galaxies which is rapidly transitioning between the star-forming and the passively evolving phases. Subsequently, these PSGs will contribute towards the build-up of the low-mass end of the 'red sequence' once the current population of young stars fade and stars are no longer being formed. These results are consistent with the idea of 'downsizing' where the build-up of smaller galaxies occurs at later epochs. © 2012 CSIRO Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2012 RAS.
The distribution of interplanetary dust between 0.96 and 1.04 au as inferred from impacts on the STEREO spacecraft observed by the heliospheric imagers
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 420 (2012) 1355-1366
The distribution of dust in the ecliptic plane between 0.96 and 1.04 au has been inferred from impacts on the two Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft through observation of secondary particle trails and unexpected off-points in the heliospheric imager (HI) cameras. This study made use of analysis carried out by members of a distributed web-based citizen science project Solar Stormwatch. A comparison between observations of the brightest particle trails and a survey of fainter trails shows consistent distributions. While there is no obvious correlation between this distribution and the occurrence of individual meteor streams at Earth, there are some broad longitudinal features in these distributions that are also observed in sources of the sporadic meteor population. The different position of the HI instrument on the two STEREO spacecraft leads to each sampling different populations of dust particles. The asymmetry in the number of trails seen by each spacecraft and the fact that there are many more unexpected off-points in the HI-B than in HI-A indicates that the majority of impacts are coming from the apex direction. For impacts causing off-points in the HI-B camera, these dust particles are estimated to have masses in excess of 10 kg with radii exceeding 0.1μm. For off-points observed in the HI-A images, which can only have been caused by particles travelling from the anti-apex direction, the distribution is consistent with that of secondary 'storm' trails observed by HI-B, providing evidence that these trails also result from impacts with primary particles from an anti-apex source. Investigating the mass distribution for the off-points of both HI-A and HI-B, it is apparent that the differential mass index of particles from the apex direction (causing off-points in HI-B) is consistently above 2. This indicates that the majority of the mass is within the smaller particles of this population. In contrast, the differential mass index of particles from the anti-apex direction (causing off-points in HI-A) is consistently below 2, indicating that the majority of the mass is to be found in larger particles of this distribution. © 2011 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2011 RAS.
Solar Physics (2012) 1-19
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 420 (2012) 878-900
Some active galactic nuclei (AGN) are surrounded by extended emission-line regions (EELRs), which trace both the illumination pattern of escaping radiation and its history over the light travel time from the AGN to the gas. From a new set of such EELRs, we present evidence that the AGN in many Seyfert galaxies undergo luminous episodes 0.2-2years in duration. Motivated by the discovery of the spectacular nebula known as Hanny's Voorwerp, ionized by a powerful AGN which has apparently faded dramatically withinyears, Galaxy Zoo volunteers have carried out both targeted and serendipitous searches for similar emission-line clouds around low-redshift galaxies. We present the resulting list of candidates and describe spectroscopy identifying 19 galaxies with AGN-ionized regions at projected radiikpc. This search recovered known EELRs (such as Mrk 78, Mrk 266 and NGC 5252) and identified additional previously unknown cases, one with detected emission tokpc. One new Sy 2 was identified. At least 14/19 are in interacting or merging systems, suggesting that tidal tails are a prime source of distant gas out of the galaxy plane to be ionized by an AGN. We see a mix of one- and two-sided structures, with observed cone angles from 23to 112. We consider the energy balance in the ionized clouds, with lower and upper bounds on ionizing luminosity from recombination and ionization-parameter arguments, and estimate the luminosity of the core from the far-infrared data. The implied ratio of ionizing radiation seen by the clouds to that emitted by the nucleus, on the assumption of a non-variable nuclear source, ranges from 0.02 to; 7/19 exceed unity. Small values fit well with a heavily obscured AGN in which only a small fraction of the ionizing output escapes to be traced by surrounding gas. However, large values may require that the AGN has faded over tens of thousands of years, giving us several examples of systems in which such dramatic long-period variation has occurred; this is the only current technique for addressing these time-scales in AGN history. The relative numbers of faded and non-faded objects we infer, and the projected extents of the ionized regions, give our estimate (0.2-2years) for the length of individual bright phases. © 2011 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2011 RAS.
Planet Hunters: The first two planet candidates identified by the public using the Kepler public archive data
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 419 (2012) 2900-2911
Planet Hunters is a new citizen science project designed to engage the public in an exoplanet search using NASA Kepler public release data. In the first month after launch, users identified two new planet candidates which survived our checks for false positives. The follow-up effort included analysis of Keck HIRES spectra of the host stars, analysis of pixel centroid offsets in the Kepler data and adaptive optics imaging at Keck using NIRC2. Spectral synthesis modelling coupled with stellar evolutionary models yields a stellar density distribution, which is used to model the transit orbit. The orbital periods of the planet candidates are 9.8844 ± 0.0087d (KIC 10905746) and 49.7696 ± 0.00039d (KIC 6185331), and the modelled planet radii are 2.65 and 8.05R . The involvement of citizen scientists as part of Planet Hunters is therefore shown to be a valuable and reliable tool in exoplanet detection. © 2011 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2011 RAS.
SOLAR PHYSICS 279 (2012) 517-535