Publications by Chris Lintott


The Ultraviolet Attenuation Law in Backlit Spiral Galaxies

ArXiv (2014)

WC Keel, AM Manning, BW Holwerda, CJ Lintott, K Schawinski

(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.


Galaxy Zoo: An independent look at the evolution of the bar fraction over the last eight billion years from HST-COSMOS

ArXiv (2014)

T Melvin, K Masters, C Lintott, RC Nichol, B Simmons, SP Bamford, KRV Casteels, E Cheung, EM Edmondson, L Fortson, K Schawinski, RA Skibba, AM Smith, KW Willett

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.


Crowd-Sourced Assessment of Technical Skills: a novel method to evaluate surgical performance

Journal of Surgical Research (2013)

C Chen, D Holst, L White, T Kowalewski, R Aggarwal, C Lintott, B Comstock, K Kuksenok, C Aragon, T Lendvay

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.


Planet Hunters. V. A Confirmed Jupiter-Size Planet in the Habitable Zone and 42 Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archive Data

ArXiv (2013)

J Wang, DA Fischer, T Barclay, TS Boyajian, JR Crepp, ME Schwamb, C Lintott, KJ Jek, AM Smith, M Parrish, K Schawinski, J Schmitt, MJ Giguere, JM Brewer, S Lynn, R Simpson, AJ Hoekstra, TL Jacobs, D LaCourse, HM Schwengeler, M Chopin

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.


Galaxy Zoo: Motivations of Citizen Scientists

ArXiv (2013)

MJ Raddick, G Bracey, PL Gay, CJ Lintott, C Cardamone, P Murray, K Schawinski, AS Szalay, J Vandenberg

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.


Morphology in the era of large surveys

ASTRONOMY & GEOPHYSICS 54 (2013) 16-19

C Lintott, K Masters, B Simmons, S Bamford, S Kaviraj


Galaxy Zoo: Observing Secular Evolution Through Bars

ArXiv (2013)

E Cheung, E Athanassoula, KL Masters, RC Nichol, A Bosma, EF Bell, SM Faber, DC Koo, C Lintott, T Melvin, K Schawinski, RA Skibba, KW Willett

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 ($z<1$).


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)

J Wang, DA Fischer, TS Boyajian, JR Schmitt, MJ Giguere, JM Brewer, T Barclay, JR Crepp, ME Schwamb, C Lintott, R Simpson, AM Smith, M Parrish, S Lynn, AJ Hoekstra, K Schawinski, KJ Jek, TL Jacobs, D Lacourse, HM Schwengeler, M Chopin, R Herszkowicz


Galaxy Zoo: Quantifying Morphological Indicators of Galaxy Interaction

ArXiv (2012)

KRV Casteels, SP Bamford, RA Skibba, KL Masters, CJ Lintott, WC Keel, K Schawinski, RC Nichol, AM Smith

We use Galaxy Zoo 2 visual classifications to study the morphological signatures of interaction between similar-mass galaxy pairs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. We find that many observable features correlate with projected pair separation; not only obvious indicators of merging, disturbance and tidal tails, but also more regular features, such as spiral arms and bars. These trends are robustly quantified, using a control sample to account for observational biases, producing measurements of the strength and separation scale of various morphological responses to pair interaction. For example, we find that the presence of spiral features is enhanced at scales < 70 h^-1 kpc, probably due to both increased star formation and the formation of tidal tails. On the other hand, the likelihood of identifying a bar decreases significantly in pairs with separations < 30 h^-1 kpc, suggesting that bars are suppressed by close interactions between galaxies of similar mass. We go on to show how morphological indicators of physical interactions provide a way of significantly refining standard estimates for the frequency of close pair interactions, based on velocity offset and projected separation. The presence of loosely wound spiral arms is found to be a particularly reliable signal of an interaction, for projected pair separations up to ~100 h^-1 kpc. We use this indicator to demonstrate our method, constraining the fraction of low-redshift galaxies in truly interacting pairs, with M_* > 10^9.5 M_Sun and mass ratio < 4, to be between 0.4 - 2.7 per cent.


A Herschel-ATLAS study of dusty spheroids: probing the minor-merger process in the local Universe

ArXiv (2013)

S Kaviraj, K Rowlands, M Alpaslan, L Dunne, YS Ting, M Bureau, S Shabala, CJ Lintott, DJB Smith, THATLAS collaboration

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%.


Morphology in the Era of Large Surveys

ArXiv (2013)

C Lintott, K Masters, B Simmons, S Bamford, S Kaviraj

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.


Galaxy Zoo 2: detailed morphological classifications for 304,122 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

ArXiv (2013)

KW Willett, CJ Lintott, SP Bamford, KL Masters, BD Simmons, KRV Casteels, EM Edmondson, LF Fortson, S Kaviraj, WC Keel, T Melvin, RC Nichol, MJ Raddick, K Schawinski, RJ Simpson, RA Skibba, AM Smith, D Thomas

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 .


Measuring the conceptual understandings of citizen scientists participating in zooniverse projects: A first approach

Astronomy Education Review 12 (2013)

EE Prather, S Cormier, CS Wallace, C Lintott, M Jordan Raddick, A Smith

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.


Sir Patrick Moore, 'The Sky at Night' and modern astronomy in the UK

ASTRONOMY & GEOPHYSICS 54 (2013) 37-38

P Abel, C Lintott, M Barstow


Planet Hunters VI: The First Kepler Seven Planet Candidate System and 13 Other Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archival Data

ArXiv (2013)

JR Schmitt, J Wang, DA Fischer, KJ Jek, JC Moriarty, TS Boyajian, ME Schwamb, C Lintott, AM Smith, M Parrish, K Schawinski, S Lynn, R Simpson, M Omohundro, T Winarski, SJ Goodman, T Jebson, D Lacourse

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 overlap with Kepler Objects of Interest (KOIs), and five of the candidates were missed by the Kepler Transit Planet Search (TPS) algorithm. The new candidates have periods ranging from 124-904 days, eight residing in their host star's habitable zone (HZ) and two (now) in multiple planet systems. We report the discovery of one more addition to the six planet candidate system around KOI-351, marking the first 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. We perform a numerical integration of the orbits and show that the system remains stable for over 100 million years. A Hill stability test also confirms the feasibility for the dynamical stability of the KOI-351 system.


Galaxy Zoo: Dust and molecular gas in early-type galaxies with prominent dust lanes

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 423 (2012) 49-58

S Kaviraj, Y-S Ting, M Bureau, SS Shabala, RM Crockett, J Silk, C Lintott, A Smith, WC Keel, KL Masters, K Schawinski, SP Bamford

We explore the properties of dust and associated molecular gas in 352 nearby (0.01 < z < 0.07) early-type galaxies (ETGs) with prominent dust lanes, drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Two-thirds of these 'dusty ETGs' (D-ETGs) are morphologically disturbed, which suggests a merger origin, making these galaxies ideal test beds for studying the merger process at low redshift. The D-ETGs preferentially reside in lower density environments, compared to a control sample drawn from the general ETG population. Around 80per cent of D-ETGs inhabit the field (compared to 60per cent of the control ETGs) and less than 2per cent inhabit clusters (compared to 10per cent of the control ETGs). Compared to their control-sample counterparts, D-ETGs exhibit bluer ultraviolet-optical colours (indicating enhanced levels of star formation) and an active galactic nucleus fraction that is more than an order of magnitude greater (indicating a strikingly higher incidence of nuclear activity). The mass of clumpy dust residing in large-scale dust features is estimated, using the SDSS r-band images, to be in the range 10 -10 M . A comparison to the total (clumpy + diffuse) dust masses - calculated using the far-infrared fluxes of 15per cent of the D-ETGs that are detected by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) - indicates that only 20per cent of the dust is typically contained in these large-scale dust features. The dust masses are several times larger than the maximum value expected from stellar mass loss, ruling out an internal origin. The dust content shows no correlation with the blue luminosity, indicating that it is not related to a galactic scale cooling flow. Furthermore, no correlation is found with the age of the recent starburst, suggesting that the dust is accreted directly in the merger rather than being produced in situ by the triggered star formation. Using molecular gas-to-dust ratios of ETGs in the literature, we estimate that the median current molecular gas fraction in the IRAS-detected ETGs is ∼1.3per cent. Adopting reasonable values for gas depletion time-scales and starburst ages, the median initial gas fraction in these D-ETGs is ∼4per cent. Recent work has suggested that the merger © 2012 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2012 RAS.


Galaxy Zoo: The environmental dependence of bars and bulges in disc galaxies

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 423 (2012) 1485-1502

RA Skibba, KL Masters, RC Nichol, EM Edmondson, I Zehavi, B Hoyle, SP Bamford, CN Cardamone, WC Keel, C Lintott, K Schawinski

We present an analysis of the environmental dependence of bars and bulges in disc galaxies, using a volume-limited catalogue of 15810 galaxies at z < 0.06 from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey with visual morphologies from the Galaxy Zoo 2 project. We find that the likelihood of having a bar, or bulge, in disc galaxies increases when the galaxies have redder (optical) colours and larger stellar masses, and observe a transition in the bar and bulge likelihoods at M = 2 × 10 M , such that massive disc galaxies are more likely to host bars and bulges. In addition, while some barred and most bulge-dominated galaxies are on the 'red sequence' of the colour-magnitude diagram, we see a wider variety of colours for galaxies that host bars. We use galaxy clustering methods to demonstrate statistically significant environmental correlations of barred, and bulge-dominated, galaxies, from projected separations of 150kpch to 3Mpch . These environmental correlations appear to be independent of each other: i.e. bulge-dominated disc galaxies exhibit a significant bar-environment correlation, and barred disc galaxies show a bulge-environment correlation. As a result of sparse sampling tests - our sample is nearly 20 times larger than those used previously - we argue that previous studies that did not detect a bar-environment correlation were likely inhibited by small number statistics. We demonstrate that approximately half of the bar-environment correlation can be explained by the fact that more massive dark matter haloes host redder disc galaxies, which are then more likely to have bars; this fraction is estimated to be 50 ± 10per cent from a mock catalogue analysis and 60 ± 5per cent from the data. Likewise, we show that the environmental dependence of stellar mass can only explain a smaller fraction (25 ± 10per cent) of the bar-environment correlation. Therefore, a significant fraction of our observed environmental dependence of barred galaxies is not due to colour or stellar mass dependences, and hence must be due to another galaxy property, such as gas content, or to environmental influences. Finally, by analysing the projected clustering of barred and unbarred disc galaxies with halo occupation models, we argue that barred galaxies are in slightly higher mass haloes than unbarred ones, and some of them (approximately 25per cent) are satellite galaxies in groups. We discuss the implications of our results on the effects of minor mergers and interactions on bar formation in disc galaxies. © 2012 The Authors Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society © 2012 RAS.


The Milky Way Project First Data Release: A Bubblier Galactic Disk

ArXiv (2012)

RJ Simpson, MS Povich, S Kendrew, CJ Lintott, E Bressert, K Arvidsson, C Cyganowski, S Maddison, K Schawinski, R Sherman, AM Smith, G Wolf-Chase

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.


The History and Environment of a Faded Quasar: Hubble Space Telescope observations of Hanny's Voorwerp and IC 2497

ArXiv (2012)

WC Keel, CJ Lintott, K Schawinski, VN Bennert, D Thomas, A Manning, SD Chojnowski, HV Arkel, S Lynn

We present Hubble Space Telescope imaging and spectroscopy for the extended high-ionization cloud known as Hanny's Voorwerp, near the spiral galaxy IC 2497. WFC3 images show complex dust absorption near the nucleus of IC 2497. STIS spectra show a type 2 Seyfert AGN of rather low luminosity. The ionization parameter log U = -3.5 is in accord with its weak X-ray emission. We find no high-ionization gas near the nucleus, adding to evidence that the AGN is currently at low radiative output (perhaps now dominated by kinetic energy). The nucleus is accompanied by an expanding ring of ionized gas 500 pc in projected diameter on the side opposite Hanny's Voorwerp, with Doppler offset 300 km/s from the nucleus (kinematic age < 7 x10^5 years). [O III] and H-alpha + [N II] images show fine structure in Hanny's Voorwerp, with limb-brightened sections and small areas where H-alpha is strong. We identify these as regions ionized by recent star formation, in contrast to the AGN ionization of the entire cloud. These candidate "normal" H II regions contain blue continuum objects, whose colors are consistent with young stellar populations; they appear only in a 2-kpc region toward IC 2497 in projection. The ionization-sensitive ratio [O III]/H-alpha shows no discernible pattern near the prominent "hole" in the ionized gas. The independence of ionization and surface brightness suggests that substantial spatial structure remains unresolved, to such an extent that the surface brightness sample the number of denser filaments rather than the characteristic density in emission regions. These results fit with our picture of an ionization echo from an AGN whose ionizing luminosity has dropped by a factor > 100 (and possibly much more) within the last 1-2 x 10^5 years; we suggest a sequence of events and discuss implications of such rapid fluctuations for AGN demographics. (Abridged)


Tidal dwarf galaxies in the nearby Universe

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 419 (2012) 70-79

S Kaviraj, D Darg, C Lintott, J Silk, K Schawinski

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.