Publications by Chris Lintott


Galaxy Zoo: Quantifying Morphological Indicators of Galaxy Interaction

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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.


Galaxy Zoo: Observing Secular Evolution Through Bars

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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 ($z<1$).


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

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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 study dust and associated molecular gas in 352 nearby early-type galaxies (ETGs) with prominent dust lanes. 65% of these `dusty ETGs' (D-ETGs) are morphologically disturbed, suggesting a merger origin. This is consistent with the D-ETGs residing in lower density environments compared to the controls drawn from the general ETG population. 80% of D-ETGs inhabit the field (compared to 60% of the controls) and <2% inhabit clusters (compared to 10% of the controls). Compared to the controls, D-ETGs exhibit bluer UV-optical colours (indicating enhanced star formation) and an AGN fraction that is more than an order of magnitude greater (indicating higher incidence of nuclear activity). The clumpy dust mass residing in large-scale features is estimated, using the SDSS r-band images, to be 10^{4.5}-10^{6.5} MSun. A comparison to the total (clumpy + diffuse) dust masses- calculated using the far-IR fluxes of 15% of the D-ETGs that are detected by the IRAS- indicates that only ~20% of the dust resides in these large-scale 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. 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 and initial molecular gas fraction are ~1.3% and ~4%, respectively. Recent work suggests that the merger activity in nearby ETGs largely involves minor mergers (mass ratios between 1:10 and 1:4). If the IRAS-detected D-ETGs form via this channel, then the original gas fractions of the accreted satellites are 20%-44%. [Abridged]


Galaxy Zoo: The Environmental Dependence of Bars and Bulges in Disc Galaxies

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RA Skibba, KL Masters, RC Nichol, I Zehavi, B Hoyle, EM Edmondson, 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, such that massive disc galaxies are more likely to host bars and bulges. We use galaxy clustering methods to demonstrate statistically significant environmental correlations of barred, and bulge-dominated, galaxies, from projected separations of 150 kpc/h to 3 Mpc/h. 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. We demonstrate that approximately half (50 +/- 10%) 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. Likewise, we show that the environmental dependence of stellar mass can only explain a small fraction (25 +/- 10%) 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 could be due to another galaxy property. Finally, by analyzing 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 25%) are satellite galaxies in groups. We also discuss implications about the effects of minor mergers and interactions on bar formation.


Planet Hunters: Assessing the Kepler Inventory of Short Period Planets

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ME Schwamb, CJ Lintott, DA Fischer, MJ Giguere, S Lynn, AM Smith, JM Brewer, M Parrish, K Schawinski, RJ Simpson

We present the results from a search of data from the first 33.5 days of the Kepler science mission (Quarter 1) for exoplanet transits by the Planet Hunters citizen science project. Planet Hunters enlists members of the general public to visually identify transits in the publicly released Kepler light curves via the World Wide Web. Over 24,000 volunteers reviewed the Kepler Quarter 1 data set. We examine the abundance of \geq 2 R\oplus planets on short period (< 15 days) orbits based on Planet Hunters detections. We present these results along with an analysis of the detection efficiency of human classifiers to identify planetary transits including a comparison to the Kepler inventory of planet candidates. Although performance drops rapidly for smaller radii, \geq 4 R\oplus Planet Hunters \geq 85% efficient at identifying transit signals for planets with periods less than 15 days for the Kepler sample of target stars. Our high efficiency rate for simulated transits along with recovery of the majority of Kepler \geq 4 R\oplus planets suggest suggests the Kepler inventory of \geq 4 R\oplus short period planets is nearly complete.


Chandra Observations of Galaxy Zoo Mergers: Frequency of Binary Active Nuclei in Massive Mergers

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SH Teng, K Schawinski, CM Urry, DW Darg, S Kaviraj, K Oh, EW Bonning, CN Cardamone, WC Keel, CJ Lintott, BD Simmons, E Treister

We present the results from a Chandra pilot study of 12 massive galaxy mergers selected from Galaxy Zoo. The sample includes major mergers down to a host galaxy mass of 10$^{11}$ $M_\odot$ that already have optical AGN signatures in at least one of the progenitors. We find that the coincidences of optically selected active nuclei with mildly obscured ($N_H \lesssim 1.1 \times 10^{22}$ cm$^{-2}$) X-ray nuclei are relatively common (8/12), but the detections are too faint ($< 40$ counts per nucleus; $f_{2-10 keV} \lesssim 1.2 \times 10^{-13}$ erg s$^{-1}$ cm$^{-2}$) to reliably separate starburst and nuclear activity as the origin of the X-ray emission. Only one merger is found to have confirmed binary X-ray nuclei, though the X-ray emission from its southern nucleus could be due solely to star formation. Thus, the occurrences of binary AGN in these mergers are rare (0-8%), unless most merger-induced active nuclei are very heavily obscured or Compton thick.


Galaxy Zoo: Bars in Disk Galaxies

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KL Masters, RC Nichol, B Hoyle, C Lintott, S Bamford, EM Edmondson, L Fortson, WC Keel, K Schawinski, A Smith, D Thomas

We present first results from Galaxy Zoo 2, the second phase of the highly successful Galaxy Zoo project (www.galaxyzoo.org). Using a volume-limited sample of 13665 disk galaxies (0.01< z < 0.06 and M_r<-19.38), we study the fraction of galaxies with bars as a function of global galaxy properties like colour, luminosity and bulge prominence. Overall, 29.4+/-0.5% of galaxies in our sample have a bar, in excellent agreement with previous visually classified samples of galaxies (although this overall fraction is lower than measured by automated bar-finding methods). We see a clear increase in the bar fraction with redder (g-r) colours, decreased luminosity and in galaxies with more prominent bulges, to the extent that over half of the red, bulge-dominated, disk galaxies in our sample possess a bar. We see evidence for a colour bi-modality for our sample of disk galaxies, with a "red sequence" that is both bulge and bar-dominated, and a "blue cloud" which has little, or no, evidence for a (classical) bulge or bar. These results are consistent with similar trends for barred galaxies seen recently both locally and at higher redshift, and with early studies using the RC3. We discuss these results in the context of internal (secular) galaxy evolution scenarios and the possible links to the formation of bars and bulges in disk galaxies.


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

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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,' $f_m$) which describes our confidence that the system is part of an ongoing merger. We describe how $f_m$ 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 $f_m$ applied to the SDSS Main Galaxy Spectral sample (MGS) to estimate that the fraction of volume-limited ($M_r < -20.55$) major mergers ($1/3 < {M}^*_1/{M}^*_2 < 3$) in the nearby universe is $1 - 3 \times C%$ where $C \sim 1.5$ 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 $\sim 2$ 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.


Galaxy Zoo: A correlation between coherence of galaxy spin chirality and star formation efficiency

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R Jimenez, A Slosar, L Verde, S Bamford, C Lintott, K Schawinski, R Nichol, D Andreescu, K Land, P Murray, MJ Raddick, A Szalay, D Thomas, J Vandenberg

We report on the finding of a correlation between galaxies' past star formation activity and the degree to which neighbouring galaxies rotation axes are aligned. This is obtained by cross-correlating star formation histories, derived with MOPED, and spin direction (chirality), as determined by the Galaxy Zoo project, for a sample of SDSS galaxies. Our findings suggest that spiral galaxies which formed the majority of their stars early (z > 2) tend to display coherent rotation over scales of ~10 Mpc/h. The correlation is weaker for galaxies with significant recent star formation. We find evidence for this alignment at more than the 5-sigma level, but no correlation with other galaxy stellar properties. This finding can be explained within the context of hierarchical tidal-torque theory if the SDSS galaxies harboring the majority of the old stellar population where formed in the past, in the same filament and at about the same time. Galaxies with significant recent star formation instead are in the field, thus influenced by the general tidal field that will align them in random directions or had a recent merger which would promote star formation, but deviate the spin direction.


Galaxy Zoo Green Peas: Discovery of A Class of Compact Extremely Star-Forming Galaxies

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CN Cardamone, K Schawinski, M Sarzi, SP Bamford, N Bennert, CM Urry, C Lintott, WC Keel, J Parejko, RC Nichol, D Thomas, D Andreescu, P Murray, MJ Raddick, A Slosar, A Szalay, J VandenBerg

We investigate a class of rapidly growing emission line galaxies, known as "Green Peas", first noted by volunteers in the Galaxy Zoo project because of their peculiar bright green colour and small size, unresolved in SDSS imaging. Their appearance is due to very strong optical emission lines, namely [O III] 5007 A, with an unusually large equivalent width of up to ~1000 A. We discuss a well-defined sample of 251 colour-selected objects, most of which are strongly star forming, although there are some AGN interlopers including 8 newly discovered narrow Line Seyfert 1 galaxies. The star-forming Peas are low mass galaxies (M~10^8.5 - 10^10 M_sun) with high star formation rates (~10 M_sun/yr), low metallicities (log[O/H] + 12 ~ 8.7) and low reddening (E(B-V) < 0.25) and they reside in low density environments. They have some of the highest specific star formation rates (up to ~10^{-8} yr^{-1}) seen in the local Universe, yielding doubling times for their stellar mass of hundreds of Myrs. The few star-forming Peas with HST imaging appear to have several clumps of bright star-forming regions and low surface density features that may indicate recent or ongoing mergers. The Peas are similar in size, mass, luminosity and metallicity to Luminous Blue Compact Galaxies. They are also similar to high redshift UV-luminous galaxies, e.g., Lyman-break galaxies and Lyman-alpha emitters, and therefore provide a local laboratory with which to study the extreme star formation processes that occur in high-redshift galaxies. Studying starbursting galaxies as a function of redshift is essential to understanding the build up of stellar mass in the Universe.


Tracing high density gas in M 82 and NGC 4038

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

We present the first detection of CS in the Antennae galaxies towards 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 M 82. The CS(7-6) line in M 82 shows a profile that is surprisingly different to 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 suggests an association with the supershell in the centre of M 82.


Galaxy Zoo: The large-scale spin statistics of spiral galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey

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

We re-examine the evidence for a violation of large-scale statistical isotropy in the distribution of projected spin vectors of spiral galaxies. We have a sample of $\sim 37,000$ spiral galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, with their line of sight spin direction confidently classified by members of the public through the online project Galaxy Zoo. After establishing and correcting for a certain level of bias in our handedness results we find the winding sense of the galaxies to be consistent with statistical isotropy. In particular we find no significant dipole signal, and thus no evidence for overall preferred handedness of the Universe. We compare this result to those of other authors and conclude that these may also be affected and explained by a bias effect.


Determining the cosmic ray ionization rate in dynamically evolving clouds

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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 H3+,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.


Hot Cores : Probes of High-Redshift Galaxies

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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 independent 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 one thousand, then a wide range of molecules in high redshift hot cores should have detectable emission. It should be possible to distinguish between independent models for the production of metals and hence hot core molecules should be useful probes of star formation at high redshift.


Galaxy Zoo: Exploring the Motivations of Citizen Science Volunteers

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

The Galaxy Zoo citizen science website invites anyone with an Internet connection to participate in research by classifying galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. As of April 2009, more than 200,000 volunteers had made more than 100 million galaxy classifications. In this paper, we present results of a pilot study into the motivations and demographics of Galaxy Zoo volunteers, and define a technique to determine motivations from free responses that can be used in larger multiple-choice surveys with similar populations. Our categories form the basis for a future survey, with the goal of determining the prevalence of each motivation.


Citizen Science: Contributions to Astronomy Research

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C Christian, C Lintott, A Smith, L Fortson, S Bamford

The contributions of everyday individuals to significant research has grown dramatically beyond the early days of classical birdwatching and endeavors of amateurs of the 19th century. Now people who are casually interested in science can participate directly in research covering diverse scientific fields. Regarding astronomy, volunteers, either as individuals or as networks of people, are involved in a variety of types of studies. Citizen Science is intuitive, engaging, yet necessarily robust in its adoption of sci-entific principles and methods. Herein, we discuss Citizen Science, focusing on fully participatory projects such as Zooniverse (by several of the au-thors CL, AS, LF, SB), with mention of other programs. In particular, we make the case that citizen science (CS) can be an important aspect of the scientific data analysis pipelines provided to scientists by observatories.

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