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.
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.
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 growth of supermassive black holes appears to be driven by galaxy mergers, violent merger-free processes and/or `secular' processes. In order to quantify the effects of secular evolution on black hole growth, we study a sample of active galactic nuclei (AGN) in galaxies with a calm formation history free of significant mergers, a population that heretofore has been difficult to locate. Here we present an initial sample of 13 AGN in massive (M_* >~ 1e10 M_sun) bulgeless galaxies -- which lack the classical bulges believed inevitably to result from mergers -- selected from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey using visual classifications from Galaxy Zoo. Parametric morphological fitting confirms the host galaxies lack classical bulges; any contributions from pseudobulges are very small (typically < 5%). We compute black hole masses for the two broad-line objects in the sample (4.2e6 and 1.2e7 M_sun) and place lower limits on black hole masses for the remaining sample (typically M_BH >~ 1e6 M_sun), showing that significant black hole growth must be possible in the absence of mergers or violent disk instabilities. The black hole masses are systematically higher than expected from established bulge-black hole relations. However, if the mean Eddington ratio of the systems with measured black hole masses (L/L_Edd = 0.065) is typical, 10 of 13 sources are consistent with the correlation between black hole mass and total stellar mass. That pure disk galaxies and their central black holes may be consistent with a relation derived from elliptical and bulge-dominated galaxies with very different formation histories implies the details of stellar galaxy evolution and dynamics may not be fundamental to the co-evolution of galaxies and black holes.
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.
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.
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.
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 ($z<1$).
ASTRONOMY & GEOPHYSICS 54 (2013) 37-38
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%.
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 Institute of Physics Publishing 778 (2013)
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.
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 419 (2012) 70-79
We present a statistical observational study of the tidal dwarf (TD) population in the nearby Universe by exploiting a large, homogeneous catalogue of galaxy mergers compiled from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. 95percent of TD-producing mergers involve two spiral progenitors (typically both in the blue cloud), while most remaining systems have at least one spiral progenitor. The fraction of TD-producing mergers where both parents are early-type galaxies is less than 2percent, suggesting that TDs are unlikely to form in such mergers. The bulk of TD-producing mergers inhabit a field environment and have mass ratios greater than ~1:7 (the median value is 1:2.5). TDs forming at the tidal-tail tips are ~4 times more massive than those forming at the base of the tails. TD stellar masses are less than 10percent of the stellar masses of their parents (the median is 0.6percent) and lie within 15 optical half-light radii of their parent galaxies. The TD population is typically bluer than the parents, with a median offset of ~0.3mag in the (g-r) colour and the TD colours are not affected by the presence of active galactic nuclei (AGN) activity in their parents. An analysis of their star formation histories indicates that TDs contain both newly formed stars (with a median age of ~30Myr) and old stars drawn from the parent discs, each component probably contributing roughly equally to the stellar mass of the object. Thus TDs are not formed purely through gas condensation in tidal tails but host a significant component of old stars from the parent discs. Finally, an analysis of the TD contribution to the observed dwarf-to-massive galaxy ratio in the local Universe indicates that ~6percent of dwarfs in nearby clusters may have a tidal origin, if TD production rates in nearby mergers are representative of those in the high-redshift Universe. Even if TD production rates at high redshift were several factors higher, it seems unlikely that the entire dwarf galaxy population today is a result of merger activity over the lifetime of the Universe. © 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.
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.
Solar Physics (2012) 1-19
We present a new catalogue of 5,106 infrared bubbles created through visual classification via the online citizen science website 'The Milky Way Project'. Bubbles in the new catalogue have been independently measured by at least 5 individuals, producing consensus parameters for their position, radius, thickness, eccentricity and position angle. Citizen scientists - volunteers recruited online and taking part in this research - have independently rediscovered the locations of at least 86% of three widely-used catalogues of bubbles and H ii regions whilst finding an order of magnitude more objects. 29% of the Milky Way Project catalogue bubbles lie on the rim of a larger bubble, or have smaller bubbles located within them, opening up the possibility of better statistical studies of triggered star formation. Also outlined is the creation of a 'heat map' of star-formation activity in the Galactic plane. This online resource provides a crowd-sourced map of bubbles and arcs in the Milky Way, and will enable better statistical analysis of Galactic star-formation sites.