Publications by Chris Lintott


Galaxy Zoo: Dust in Spirals

ArXiv (0)

KL Masters, RC Nichol, S Bamford, M Mosleh, CJ Lintott, D Andreescu, EM Edmondson, WC Keel, P Murray, MJ Raddick, K Schawinski, A Slosar, AS Szalay, D Thomas, J Vandenberg

We investigate the effect of dust on spiral galaxies by measuring the inclination-dependence of optical colours for 24,276 well-resolved SDSS galaxies visually classified in Galaxy Zoo. We find clear trends of reddening with inclination which imply a total extinction from face-on to edge-on of 0.7, 0.6, 0.5 and 0.4 magnitudes for the ugri passbands. We split the sample into "bulgy" (early-type) and "disky" (late-type) spirals using the SDSS fracdeV (or f_DeV) parameter and show that the average face-on colour of "bulgy" spirals is redder than the average edge-on colour of "disky" spirals. This shows that the observed optical colour of a spiral galaxy is determined almost equally by the spiral type (via the bulge-disk ratio and stellar populations), and reddening due to dust. We find that both luminosity and spiral type affect the total amount of extinction, with "disky" spirals at M_r ~ -21.5 mags having the most reddening. This decrease of reddening for the most luminous spirals has not been observed before and may be related to their lower levels of recent star formation. We compare our results with the latest dust attenuation models of Tuffs et al. We find that the model reproduces the observed trends reasonably well but overpredicts the amount of u-band attenuation in edge-on galaxies. We end by discussing the effects of dust on large galaxy surveys and emphasize that these effects will become important as we push to higher precision measurements of galaxy properties and their clustering.


Galaxy Zoo: The fraction of merging galaxies in the SDSS and their morphologies

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 401 (2010) 1043-1056

DW Darg, S Kaviraj, CJ Lintott, K Schawinski, M Sarzi, S Bamford, J Silk, R Proctor, D Andreescu, P Murray, RC Nichol, MJ Raddick, A Slosar, AS Szalay, D Thomas, J Vandenberg

We present the largest, most homogeneous catalogue of merging galaxies in the nearby Universe obtained through the Galaxy Zoo project - an interface on the World Wide Web enabling large-scale morphological classification of galaxies through visual inspection of images from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The method converts a set of visually inspected classifications for each galaxy into a single parameter (the 'weighted-merger-vote fraction,' fm) which describes our confidence that the system is part of an ongoing merger. We describe how fm is used to create a catalogue of 3003 visually selected pairs of merging galaxies from the SDSS in the redshift range 0.005 < z < 0.1. We use our merger sample and values of fm applied to the SDSS Main Galaxy Spectral sample to estimate that the fraction of volume-limited (Mr < -20.55) major mergers (1/3 < M*1/M*2 < 3) in the nearby Universe is 1-3 × C per cent, where C ∼ 1.5 is a correction factor for spectroscopic incompleteness. Having visually classified the morphologies of the constituent galaxies in our mergers, we find that the spiral-to-elliptical ratio of galaxies in mergers is higher by a factor of ∼2 relative to the global population. In a companion paper, we examine the internal properties of these merging galaxies and conclude that this high spiral-to-elliptical ratio in mergers is due to a longer time-scale over which mergers with spirals are detectable compared to mergers with ellipticals. © 2009 RAS.


Galaxy Zoo: The properties of merging galaxies in the nearby Universe - Local environments, colours, masses, star formation rates and AGN activity

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 401 (2010) 1552-1563

DW Darg, S Kaviraj, CJ Lintott, K Schawinski, M Sarzi, S Bamford, J Silk, D Andreescu, P Murray, RC Nichol, MJ Raddick, A Slosar, AS Szalay, D Thomas, J Vandenberg

Following the study of Darg et al., we explore the environments, optical colours, stellar masses, star formation and active galactic nucleus activity in a sample of 3003 pairs of merging galaxies drawn from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey using visual classifications from the Galaxy Zoo project. While Darg et al. found that the spiral-to-elliptical ratio in (major) mergers appeared higher than that of the global galaxy population, no significant differences are found between the environmental distributions of mergers and a randomly selected control sample. This makes the high occurrence of spirals in mergers unlikely to be an environmental effect and must therefore arise from differing time-scales of detectability for spirals and ellipticals. We find that merging galaxies have a wider spread in colour than the global galaxy population, with a significant blue tail resulting from intense star formation in spiral mergers. Galaxies classed as star-forming using their emission-line properties have average star formation rates approximately doubled by the merger process though star formation is negligibly enhanced in merging elliptical galaxies. We conclude that the internal properties of galaxies significantly affect the time-scales over which merging systems can be detected (as suggested by recent theoretical studies) which leads to spirals being 'over-observed' in mergers. We also suggest that the transition mass 3 × 1010 M⊙, noted by Kauffmann et al., below which ellipticals are rare could be linked to disc survival/destruction in mergers. © 2009 RAS.


Tasking Citizen Scientists from Galaxy Zoo to Model Galaxy Collisions

GALAXY WARS: STELLAR POPULATIONS AND STAR FORMATION IN INTERACTING GALAXIES 423 (2010) 217-+

J Wallin, A Holincheck, K Borne, C Lintott, A Smith, S Bamford, L Fortson


Tasking Citizen Scientists from Galaxy Zoo to Model Galaxy Collisions: Preliminary Results, Interface, Analysis

GALAXY WARS: STELLAR POPULATIONS AND STAR FORMATION IN INTERACTING GALAXIES 423 (2010) 223-+

A Holincheck, J Wallin, K Borne, C Lintott, A Smith, S Bamford, L Fortson


Galaxy zoo: The fundamentally different co-evolution of supermassive black holes and their early- and late-type host galaxies

Astrophysical Journal 711 (2010) 284-302

K Schawinski, CM Urry, S Virani, P Coppi, SP Bamford, E Treister, CJ Lintott, M Sarzi, WC Keel, S Kaviraj, CN Cardamone, KL Masters, NP Ross, D Andreescu, P Murray, RC Nichol, MJ Raddick, A Slosar, AS Szalay, D Thomas, J Vandenberg

We use data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and visual classifications of morphology from the Galaxy Zoo project to study black hole growth in the nearby universe (z < 0.05) and to break down the active galactic nucleus (AGN) host galaxy population by color, stellar mass, and morphology. We find that the black hole growth at luminosities >1040erg s-1 in early- and late-type galaxies is fundamentally different. AGN host galaxies as a population have a broad range of stellar masses (1010-10 11M ⊙), reside in the green valley of the color-mass diagram and their central black holes have median masses around 10 6.5M ⊙. However, by comparing early- and late-type AGN host galaxies to their non-active counterparts, we find several key differences: in early-type galaxies, it is preferentially the galaxies with the least massive black holes that are growing, while in late-type galaxies, it is preferentially the most massive black holes that are growing. The duty cycle of AGNs in early-type galaxies is strongly peaked in the green valley below the low-mass end (1010M ⊙) of the red sequence at stellar masses where there is a steady supply of blue cloud progenitors. The duty cycle of AGNs in late-type galaxies on the other hand peaks in massive (10 11M ⊙) green and red late-types which generally do not have a corresponding blue cloud population of similar mass. At high-Eddington ratios (L/L Edd>0.1), the only population with a substantial fraction of AGNs are the low-mass green valley early-type galaxies. Finally, the Milky Way likely resides in the "sweet spot" on the color-mass diagram where the AGN duty cycle of late-type galaxies is highest. We discuss the implications of these results for our understanding of the role of AGNs in the evolution of galaxies. © 2010 The American Astronomical Society.


Galaxy Zoo: Hanny's Voorwerp, a quasar light echo?

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 399 (2009) 129-140

CJ Lintott, K Schawinski, W Keel, H Van Arkel, N Bennert, E Edmondson, D Thomas, DJB Smith, PD Herbert, MJ Jarvis, S Virani, D Andreescu, SP Bamford, K Land, P Murray, RC Nichol, MJ Raddick, AZ Slosar, A Szalay, J Vandenberg

We report the discovery of an unusual object near the spiral galaxy IC 2497, discovered by visual inspection of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) as part of the Galaxy Zoo project. The object, known as Hanny's Voorwerp, is bright in the SDSS g band due to unusually strong [O iii]4959, 5007 emission lines. We present the results of the first targeted observations of the object in the optical, ultraviolet and X-ray, which show that the object contains highly ionized gas. Although the line ratios are similar to extended emission-line regions near luminous active galactic nucleus (AGN), the source of this ionization is not apparent. The emission-line properties, and lack of X-ray emission from IC 2497, suggest either a highly obscured AGN with a novel geometry arranged to allow photoionization of the object but not the galaxy's own circumnuclear gas, or, as we argue, the first detection of a quasar light echo. In this case, either the luminosity of the central source has decreased dramatically or else the obscuration in the system has increased within 10 5 yr. This object may thus represent the first direct probe of quasar history on these time-scales. © 2009 RAS.


Galaxy Zoo: Disentangling the environmental dependence of morphology and colour

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 399 (2009) 966-982

RA Skibba, SP Bamford, RC Nichol, CJ Lintott, D Andreescu, EM Edmondson, P Murray, MJ Raddick, K Schawinski, A Slosar, AS Szalay, D Thomas, J Vandenberg

We analyse the environmental dependence of galaxy morphology and colour with two-point clustering statistics, using data from the Galaxy Zoo, the largest sample of visually classified morphologies yet compiled, extracted from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. We present two-point correlation functions of spiral and early-type galaxies, and we quantify the correlation between morphology and environment with marked correlation functions. These yield clear and precise environmental trends across a wide range of scales, analogous to similar measurements with galaxy colours, indicating that the Galaxy Zoo classifications themselves are very precise. We measure morphology marked correlation functions at fixed colour and find that they are relatively weak, with the only residual correlation being that of red galaxies at small scales, indicating a morphology gradient within haloes for red galaxies. At fixed morphology, we find that the environmental dependence of colour remains strong, and these correlations remain for fixed morphology and luminosity. An implication of this is that much of the morphology-density relation is due to the relation between colour and density. Our results also have implications for galaxy evolution: the morphological transformation of galaxies is usually accompanied by a colour transformation, but not necessarily vice versa. A spiral galaxy may move on to the red sequence of the colour-magnitude diagram without quickly becoming an early type. We analyse the significant population of red spiral galaxies, and present evidence that they tend to be located in moderately dense environments and are often satellite galaxies in the outskirts of haloes. Finally, we combine our results to argue that central and satellite galaxies tend to follow different evolutionary paths. © 2009 RAS.


Galaxy Zoo: The dependence of morphology and colour on environment

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 393 (2009) 1324-1352

SP Bamford, RC Nichol, IK Baldry, K Land, CJ Lintott, K Schawinski, A Slosar, AS Szalay, D Thomas, M Torki, D Andreescu, EM Edmondson, CJ Miller, P Murray, MJ Raddick, J Vandenberg

We analyse the relationships between galaxy morphology, colour, environment and stellar mass using data for over 10 5 objects from Galaxy Zoo, the largest sample of visually classified morphologies yet compiled. We conclusively show that colour and morphology fractions are very different functions of environment. Both colour and morphology are sensitive to stellar mass. However, at fixed stellar mass, while colour is also highly sensitive to environment, morphology displays much weaker environmental trends. Only a small part of both the morphology-density and colour-density relations can be attributed to the variation in the stellar-mass function with environment. Galaxies with high stellar masses are mostly red in all environments and irrespective of their morphology. Low stellar-mass galaxies are mostly blue in low-density environments, but mostly red in high-density environments, again irrespective of their morphology. While galaxies with early-type morphology do always have higher red fractions, this is subdominant compared to the dependence of red fraction on stellar mass and environment. The colour-density relation is primarily driven by variations in colour fractions at fixed morphology, in particular the fraction of spiral galaxies that have red colours, and especially at low stellar masses. We demonstrate that our red spirals primarily include galaxies with true spiral morphology, and that they constitute an additional population to the S0 galaxies considered by previous studies. We clearly show there is an environmental dependence for colour beyond that for morphology. The environmental transformation of galaxies from blue to red must occur on significantly shorter time-scales than the transformation from spiral to early-type. We also present many of our results as functions of the distance to the nearest galaxy group. This confirms that the environmental trends we present are not specific to the manner in which environment is quantified, but nevertheless provides plain evidence for an environmental process at work in groups. However, the properties of group members show little dependence on the total mass of the group they inhabit, at least for group masses. Before using the Galaxy Zoo morphologies to produce the above results, we first quantify a luminosity-, size- and redshift-dependent classification bias that affects this data set, and probably most other studies of galaxy population morphology. A correction for this bias is derived and applied to produce a sample of galaxies with reliable morphological-type likelihoods, on which we base our analysis. © 2009 RAS.


Eyeballing the universe

Physics World 21 (2008) 27-30

C Lintott, K Land


Molecular signature of star formation at high redshifts

Astrophysics and Space Science 313 (2008) 327-330

S Viti, CJ Lintott

In recent years there has been much debate, both observational and theoretical, about the nature of star formation at high redshift. In particular, there seems to be strong evidence of a greatly enhanced star formation rate early in the Universe's evolution. Simulations investigating the nature of the first stars indicate that these were large, with masses in excess of 100 solar masses. By the use of a chemical model, we have simulated the molecular signature of massive star formation for a range of redshifts, using different input models of metallicity in the early Universe. We find that, as long as the number of massive stars exceeds that in the Milky Way by factor of at least 1000, then several 'hot-core' like molecules should have detectable emission. Although we predict that such signatures should already be partly detectable with current instruments (e.g. with the VLA), facilities such as ALMA will make this kind of observation possible at the highest redshifts. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.


Galaxy Zoo: Morphologies derived from visual inspection of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 389 (2008) 1179-1189

CJ Lintott, K Schawinski, A Slosar, K Land, S Bamford, D Thomas, MJ Raddick, RC Nichol, A Szalay, D Andreescu, P Murray, J Vandenberg

In order to understand the formation and subsequent evolution of galaxies one must first distinguish between the two main morphological classes of massive systems: spirals and early-type systems. This paper introduces a project, Galaxy Zoo, which provides visual morphological classifications for nearly one million galaxies, extracted from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). This achievement was made possible by inviting the general public to visually inspect and classify these galaxies via the internet. The project has obtained more than 4 × 107 individual classifications made by ∼10 5 participants. We discuss the motivation and strategy for this project, and detail how the classifications were performed and processed. We find that Galaxy Zoo results are consistent with those for subsets of SDSS galaxies classified by professional astronomers, thus demonstrating that our data provide a robust morphological catalogue. Obtaining morphologies by direct visual inspection avoids introducing biases associated with proxies for morphology such as colour, concentration or structural parameters. In addition, this catalogue can be used to directly compare SDSS morphologies with older data sets. The colour-magnitude diagrams for each morphological class are shown, and we illustrate how these distributions differ from those inferred using colour alone as a proxy for morphology. © 2008 RAS.


Tracing high-density gas in M82 and NGC 4038

Astrophysical Journal 685 (2008)

E Bayet, C Lintott, S Viti, J Martin-Pintado, S Martín, DA Williams, JMC Rawlings

We present the first detection of CS in the Antennae galaxies toward the NGC 4038 nucleus, as well as the first detections of two high-J (5-4 and 7-6) CS lines in the center of M82. The CS(7-6) line in M82 shows a profile that is surprisingly different from those of other low-J CS transitions we observed. This implies the presence of a separate, denser and warmer molecular gas component. The derived physical properties and the likely location of the CS(7-6) emission suggest an association with the supershell in the center of M82. © 2008. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.


Meeting of the royal astronomical society: Friday 2007 May 11th at 16h 00m in the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House

Observatory 127 (2007) 369-375

M Rowan-Robinson, CJ Lintott, L Fletcher, GP Smith, R Trotta, G Barber, A Hood, GQG Stanley, F Diego, NO Weiss, N Kollerstrom, PG Murdin


Massive elliptical galaxies : From cores to haloes

ArXiv (0)

C Lintott, I Ferreras, O Lahav

In the context of recent observational results that show massive ellipticals were in place at high redshifts, we reassess the status of monolithic collapse in a LCDM universe. Using a sample of over 2000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, by comparing the dynamical mass and stellar mass (estimated from colours) we find that ellipticals have `cores' which are baryon-dominated within their half-light radius. These galaxies correspond to 3-sigma peaks in the spherical collapse model if the total mass in the halo is assumed to be 20 times the dynamical mass within the half-light radius. This value yields stellar mass to total mass ratios of 8%, compared to a cosmological baryon fraction of 18% derived from WMAP3 alone. We further develop a method for reconstructing the concentration halo parameter c of the progenitors of these galaxies by utilizing adiabatic contraction. Although the analysis is done within the framework of monolithic collapse, the resulting distribution of c is log-normal with a peak value of c~3-10 and a distribution width similar to the results of N-body simulations. We also derive scaling relations between stellar and dynamical mass and the velocity dispersion, and find that these are sufficient to recover the tilt of the fundamental plane.


Massive elliptical galaxies: From cores to halos

Astrophysical Journal 648 (2006) 826-834

CJ Lintott, I Ferreras, O Lahav

In the context of recent observational results that show massive ellipticals were in place at high redshifts, we reassess the status of monolithic collapse in a ACDM universe. Using a sample of over 2000 galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, by comparing the dynamical mass and stellar mass (estimated from colors) we find that ellipticals have "cores" that are baryon-dominated within their half-light radius. These galaxies correspond to 3 σ peaks in the spherical collapse model if the total mass in the halo is assumed to be 20 times the dynamical mass within the half-light radius. This value yields stellar mass-to-total mass ratios of 8%, compared to a cosmological baryon fraction of 18% derived from the first 3 years of WMAP observations alone. We further develop a method for reconstructing the concentration halo parameter c of the progenitors of these galaxies by utilizing adiabatic contraction. Although the analysis is done within the framework of monolithic collapse, the resulting distribution of c is lognormal with a peak value of c ∼ 3-10 and a distribution width similar to the results of N-body simulations. We also derive scaling relations between stellar and dynamical mass and the velocity dispersion, and find that these are sufficient to recover the tilt of the fundamental plane. © 2006. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


Determining the cosmic ray ionization rate in dynamically evolving clouds

Astronomy and Astrophysics 448 (2006) 425-432

CJ Lintott, JMC Rawlings

The ionization fraction is an important factor in determining the chemical and physical evolution of star forming regions. In the dense, dark starless cores of such objects, the ionization rate is dominated by cosmic rays; it is therefore possible to use simple analytic estimators, based on the relative abundances of different molecular tracers, to determine the cosmic ray ionization rate. This paper uses a simple model to investigate the accuracy of two well-known estimators in dynamically evolving molecular clouds. It is found that, although the analytical formulae based on the abundances of H 3+, H2, CO, O, H2O and HCO + give a reasonably accurate measure of the cosmic ray ionization rate in static, quiescent clouds, significant discrepancies occur in rapidly evolving (collapsing) clouds. As recent evidence suggests that molecular clouds may consist of complex, dynamically evolving sub-structure, we conclude that simple abundance ratios do not provide reliable estimates of the cosmic ray ionization rate in dynamically active regions. © ESO 2006.


Rapid star formation in the presence of active galactic nuclei

Astrophysical Journal 646 (2006)

C Lintott, S Viti

Recent observations reveal galaxies in the early universe (2 < z < 6.4) with large reservoirs of molecular gas and extreme star formation rates. For a very large range of sources, a tight relationship exists between star formation rate and the luminosity of the HCN 7 = 1-0 spectral line, but sources at redshifts of z ∼ 2 and beyond do not follow this trend. The deficit in HCN is conventionally explained by an excess of infrared radiation due to active galactic nuclei (AGNs). We show in this Letter not only that the presence of AGNs cannot account for the excess of IR over molecular luminosity, but also that the observed abundance of HCN is in fact consistent with a population of stars forming from near-primordial gas. © 2006. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


Molecular abundance ratios as a tracer of accelerated collapse in regions of high-mass star formation

Astrophysical Journal 620 (2005) 795-799

CJ Lintott, S Viti, JMC Rawlings, DA Williams, TW Hartquist, P Caselli, I Zinchenko, P Myers

Recent observations suggest that the behavior of tracer species such as N2H+ and CS is significantly different in regions of high- and low-mass star formation. In the latter, N2H+ is a good tracer of mass, while CS is not. Observations show the reverse to be true in high-mass star formation regions. We use a computational chemical model to show that the abundances of these and other species may be significantly altered by a period of accelerated collapse in high-mass star-forming regions. We suggest that these results provide a potential explanation of the observations, and make predictions for the behavior of other species. © 2005. The American Astronomical Society. All rights reserved.


Hot cores: Probes of high-redshift galaxies

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 360 (2005) 1527-1531

CJ Lintott, S Viti, DA Williams, JMC Rawlings, I Ferreras

The very high rates of second generation star formation detected and inferred in high-redshift objects should be accompanied by intense millimetre-wave emission from hot core molecules. We calculate the molecular abundances likely to arise in hot cores associated with massive star formation at high redshift, using several different models of metallicity in the early Universe. If the number of hot cores exceeds that in the Milky Way Galaxy by a factor of at least 1000, then a wide range of molecules in high-redshift hot cores should have detectable emission. It should be possible to distinguish between different models for the production of metals and hence hot core molecules should be useful probes of star formation at high redshift. © 2005 RAS.

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