Black Holes: gotta find ’em all

By: Bria Eldon

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what is up there? While there still isn’t definite proof of aliens, scientists have found images of  supermassive black holes and Radio Galaxy Zoo is trying to analyze them. Radio Galaxy Zoo is an internet citizen scientist program on the Zooniverse that allows regular people to analyze scientific data. Citizen scientists are regular people who help scientists analyze data. Scientists often have too much data to analyze themselves. So instead of analyzing it all, scientists post it online so citizen scientists can analyze the data. In Radio Galaxy Zoo, citizen scientists can compare radio images, from the Very Large Telescope Array, in New Mexico. The telescope takes images of galaxies and matches them with infrared images from the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The infrared images are of supermassive black holes. The project could explain why some galaxies have supermassive black holes.

The problem with finding black holes is that they are black! Light can’t escape black holes, so you can’t observe them directly. Most black holes end up taking in too much gas and some of it comes back up known as a jet, which is similar to what happens when you eat a little too much and it doesn’t all stay down. Jets, and in turn black holes, can be observed with radio waves, which is important because scientists don’t know a lot about how supermassive black holes form. If scientists can find galaxies and supermassive black holes in different stages of formation, then understand the different stages of formation. Scientists also study the host galaxy for more information that can be used to find context about a black hole, which is typically about the black hole’s size and luminosity as well as potentially how these black holes are formed, which is still a mystery.

This project can be used to find a correlation between galaxies and their supermassive black holes. The project could also elucidate out why some black holes are active and others aren’t. This could be used to understand how galaxies are forming now, as well as being used to understand how the Milky Way formed.


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