The main task for a citizen participator is to view the images, look for a gravitational lens and mark any one of the lensed images within a lens system in an image. However, these lens systems are rare. Most of the images will not have any lenses, a few images will have one and in some cases, there might be more than one lens in an image.
What is gravitational lensing?
Massive objects, such as stars, bends the space around them such that passing light rays follow curved paths.
“When one of these gravitational lenses happens to sit right in front of a background galaxy, the magnification factor can be up to x10 or even more, giving us a zoomed-in view of the distant universe, just at that particular point. Lenses can help us investigate young galaxies more than halfway across the universe, as they formed stars and started to take on the familiar shapes we see nearby.
Observations of the distorted background galaxy can also give us useful information about the object that is behaving as a gravitational lens. The separation and distortion of the lensed images can tell astronomers how much mass there is in the object, and how it is arranged. It’s one of the few ways we have of mapping out where the dark matter in the universe is, how clumpy it is and how dense it is near the centers of galaxies. Knowing this can provide crucial information about how galaxies evolve.”
By looking through images that were never seen before, Zooniverse‘s new Space Warps project asks you to help discover these objects.
Computer algorithms have already scanned the images, but there are probably many more space warps that the algorithms have missed.
“The ideal solution would be to get a computer to look through all of the images, but unfortunately this is not a straightforward solution. Teaching a computer to recognize the effects of gravitational lensing is not too difficult, but they can be easily confused by galaxies that look very similar to a distorted background galaxy. Also in order for the computer to run fast enough to analyse lots of images quickly, they have to cut a lot of corners, and this makes them less effective.”
“Human beings have a remarkable ability to recognise patterns and detect the unusual with only minimal training. With a basic understanding of what the distorted images of galaxies that have passed through a gravitational lens look like, participants in the SpaceWarps project can help discover new examples of this amazing phenomenon, and enable our survey scientists to carry out new investigations of stars and dark matter in the universe.”
To take part in this project visit www.spacewarps.org.
Read more: http://blog.spacewarps.org/