Explore unknown galaxies from your computer

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Want to help researchers to map the weird phenomena of space? You can search for supermassive black holes and star-forming galaxies and more from the comfort of your computer.

With the help of a huge radio telescope network called LOFAR (Low Frequency Array), a 200-strong international research team from 18 European countries is currently creating a new sky map that should offer an unprecedented level of detail.

The scientists have already been able to depict many galaxies that were previously unknown because they’re so far from Earth.

The LOFAR is a European association of radio telescopes that are connected to each other via a high-speed fibre optic network and whose measurement signals are combined into a single signal by a supercomputer.

However, hundreds of thousands of images still need to be analysed. Much of this analysis is done by algorithms but they’re not sophisticated enough to identify shapes better than the human eye can. That’s why the astronomers are looking for volunteers.

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The Radio Galaxy Zoo: LOFAR citizen research project involves comparing galaxy images from optical telescopes with the LOFAR images.

The programme used to analyse the images sometimes mistakenly splits a single radio source into multiple separate components. Volunteers can help to reconstruct the full radio sources.

Many of the images are of massive jets expelled by supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies. LOFAR also picks up signals from nearby galaxies where star formation is going on.

If you’re interested in helping in the classification process, the project’s website offers instructions and a tutorial video. Photos of newly discovered galaxies can be found on the Lofar-Surveys.org website. – dpa

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