Galaxy Zoo

by Lauren Meier

From these past 6 weeks at the Adler Planetarium in the Citizen Science program, I have learned new information about astronomy and working in teams. For the final project on galaxy zoo, our group decided on the question ‘Does the color of a galaxy relate to the size of a galaxy?’ We hypothesized that the blue galaxies would be larger compared to the red galaxies  because of the stars the blue galaxies contain, which are brighter allowing the radius of light to increase.

We categorized the galaxies into two groups, the colors red and blue. We used R90_ARCSEC, a column measured in the document, to measure the size of the galaxies both small and large. We used the scale of less than and greater than 10 to categorize both the small and large galaxies, disregarding the fact that not all blue galaxies are spiral and red elliptical. After we found our data, we created pie charts in order to see the differences in percentages of the small and large galaxies for each color. We compared them to one another in order to reach a conclusion.

Our findings presented that our hypothesis was not supported and the red galaxies were larger than the blue galaxies. Some of the limiting factors that made our findings restricted was there were only 20,000 galaxies that were in the document. This made our results limited because only a specific amount of galaxies were considered in our data. With a greater amount of galaxies, the results may have been different.

After completing this project, I learned more about what galaxy zoo is and the importance it has at the Adler Planetarium. Hearing my peers present their projects also allowed for a new perspective on different questions, the process, and result.


Galaxy Zoo: A Star Experience

A Galaxy Zoo exploration was an enLIGHTening way to end the Citizen Science Ambassadors program. I was able to learn about astronomy and learn more about myself as a group member. My group and I constructed a question about the affects of color and proximity: Does color of a galaxy affect proximity to other galaxies? We hypothesized that “The formation of stars occurs in clusters or multiples with the blue color specifying how young a star is. Blue galaxies will be closer in proximity due to their ever-growing nature.” The construction of our question and hypothesis worked well and flowed — similar to that of our group.

Our group consisted of Samuel, Zoe, and I. We established strong group and personal goals from the beginning which is one of the reasons why our group collaborated effectively. We made sure we were all on the same page, we divided the work in the way that no one is overwhelmed or underwhelmed, and we made sure everyone’s voice was heard.We also divided up roles in a way that no one felt they weren’t doing work they weren’t comfortable with. I worked on some data evaluation and the presentation. I felt comfortable doing these tasks because although I wasn’t completely comfortable with making accurate assumptions with Galaxy Zoo data, I was able to translate the information we collected into slides for a presentation. However, the ride through our project and data collection didn’t run as smoothly.

During the beginning stages of our data collection, we struggled to find thresholds for local density in terms of big and small numbers. However, we discovered that local density was relative in terms of our building analogy we constructed and revised throughout our project. Galaxies form clusters as galaxies age and grow larger — similar to that of the construction of a city. Once we got over this hump of data collection, a lot of the data we gathered began to make sense and ran a lot smoother than the beginning. It also brought on the challenge of new questions and having new variables to look at such as Log Mass and R90 ArcSec. This taught me about the complexities of analyzing data and how reviewing it with a close eye was important. Not only that, but it enforced the idea that science is not a linear process.  

Overall, Galaxy Zoo taught me more about astronomy that I had not learned in school or anywhere else. It allowed me to apply what I learned in a hands-on manner that helped me grow as a citizen scientist and group member.

Galaxy Zoo: The Nature of Galaxies

By Vyeron John Parayno

This project is the very last project that we Citizen Science Ambassadors worked on. My group, Hubble’s Disciples, were enthusiastic about the way galaxies are sized and placed in the Universe. We also noticed, while exploring the Zooniverse website, that galaxies come in different shapes and sizes, and these are all tied to the colors of the galaxies. So, we decided to finalize our research question into whether or not color affects the size of galaxies present.

Our group knew that we only had a small sample of the overall galaxies in the universe(we had 20,000 galaxies to study). So, any findings and conclusions we come to shall not be brought into generalizations on every galaxy. We started our research using the Galaxy Zoo data provided to us by the Zooniverse team at Adler. We first analyzed which variables to manipulate and to measure. Our independent variable was the color of the galaxies: red and blue, and our dependent variable was the value of the R90_ARCSEC, also known as the radius of enclosed 90% light. We hypothesized that the blue galaxies will have the most numbers in the size of large because they have more younger stars which are in turn brighter, thus resulting in a larger radius of light.

We proceeded to the data collection by filtering out the red galaxies and the blue galaxies separately. In order to filter the red galaxies, we set the Zoo Tools values > 0.6, since red galaxies fall in that range. Meanwhile, the blue galaxy values were set < 0.6 since blue galaxies tend to fall in that range. In the end, our group found that there were 80.5% large Red galaxies and 19.5% small red galaxies. Meanwhile, there were 18.8% large galaxies, and 81.2% small galaxies.

To conclude, our hypothesis was not supported because our data turned out to have more large red galaxies rather than large blue galaxies.

In a bigger perspective, this project really brought light into the confusions most people have with galaxies. Galaxies will not always be blue, red, big, or small. Galaxies take their shapes due to different working factors. In this case, it would be the color and range of light. They also depend on the amount of stars they contain, and how old those stars are. So, there are a lot of factors that determine the size and shape of a galaxy.

Overall, our group learned more about the nature of galaxies as well as how classifications for galaxies work.


My Galaxy Zoo Presentation

by Edyn Word

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 5.58.47 PMUsually, teens like myself see summer as a time to relax and hang out with your friends, but I spent my summer learning and making new friends instead. This summer at the Adler Planetarium I participated in the Citizen Science program. We looked at projects on the Zooniverse website and looked at the data they found. After that we used the data to make presentations. We made a presentation on the Wildcam Gorongosa project and we used the Galaxy Zoo project.

First, to familiarize ourselves with astronomy, we completed a worksheet about the brightness of stars and HR diagrams. We used a project on Zooniverse about calcium K lines and we used data about the brightness and magnitude of stars. When we completed this project, we all had a better grasp on astronomy which made making the Galaxy Zoo presentation easier. After the worksheet, we all got into groups of three and then explored the website so we could learn how to use the tools and to figure out what the data meant. Then we came up with a research question and a hypothesis and looked at the data to see if our hypothesis was supported by the data.

The research question my group came up with was “Is there a correlation between the axial ratio and local density a galaxy? Does this differ based on whether the galaxy is an elliptical or spiral shape?” We separate our data into groups of circular galaxies and oblong galaxies. Then we looked at whether they were elliptical or spiral galaxies. We figured that oblong galaxies would take up less space in a cluster of galaxies because of their shape and we found that most of our data proved our hypothesis correct. It turns out that oblong galaxies had a lower local density than the circular galaxies, but technically because space is infinite there really is no limit to how big a galaxy cluster can actually get but the data proved our hypothesis correct nonetheless. I think that if we had more galaxy clusters to look at that we could delve deeper into why our hypothesis was correct despite the universe being infinite.

I think that spending my summer at the Adler Planetarium has been a very valuable experience for me. I had no prior astronomy knowledge before coming here but now I know lot more about stars, galaxies, and I learned how to make graphs in google document. I think that if I could I would definitely come back next summer and become a teen insterns to experience the other programs that the Adler planetarium has to offer.


Galaxy Zoo: Do spiral or elliptical galaxies tend to be closer to other galaxies?

Elizabeth Coughlin

Galaxy Zoo: Do spiral or elliptical galaxies tend to be closer to other galaxies?

For our last project as Citizen Science Ambassadors, we were tasked with experimenting using data from Galaxy Zoo.  

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 5.55.48 PMTo create our experiment, we first developed testable questions about the Galaxy Zoo data, using information like axial ratios, local cluster density, distance to the nearest galaxy cluster, and many other components.  Our team decided to focus our question by using the local cluster density, and also the galaxy’s mass. For reference, local density refers to how many nearby galaxies there are within a certain distance. Ultimately, we decided that we wanted to test if spiral or ellipticals galaxies tended to be physically closer to other galaxies. We hypothesized that spiral galaxies will be closer to other galaxies than elliptical galaxies since spirals extend outwards because of their arms (see above image) and are not self-contained like ellipticals.

Before we started manipulating the data, we had to sort and filter our data.  Since we only needed information about the type of galaxy, the galaxy’s mass, and the local density, we filtered until all the only columns of data we had were ‘probability of elliptical galaxy,’ probability of spiral galaxy,’ the log of the mass, and the log of the local density.  Then, we divided the data into two categories, using the probability of each galaxy being either type. We also disregarded galaxies that had less than a 80% probability of being either a spiral or elliptical in order to clarify our results.

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 5.56.09 PMThe first step of our experiment was to compare all of the ellipticals to all of the spirals.  When we did this, however, we noticed that the masses of the two types of galaxies were distributed differently.  This would eventually lead us to dividing the data further. After we compared the mass distribution, we created histograms for the log of the local density for both elliptical and spiral galaxies.  Since we were already planning to sub-categorize, we didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on this graphs, but we did notice that the graph of the ellipticals seemed to have two ‘humps’, instead of the more Normal, one ‘hump’ graph we expected.  

In order to subcategorize the data, we found the minimum, maximum, median, and 1st and 3rd percentile for the mass of elliptical galaxies and for the mass of the spiral galaxies.  We used these values to divided the data for each type into four groups: minimum to 25th percentile, 25th percentile to median, median to 75th percentile, and 75th percentile to the maximum.  Then, we found the summary data for each of these groups and compared ellipticals and spirals in the same grouping. Interestingly enough, elliptical galaxies were- on average- closer to their neighbors than spiral galaxies for all four quartiles.

As such, the data we found contradicted our original hypothesis, since we found that elliptical galaxies actually tend to be closer to other galaxies.  We came up with several possible explanations for this; we thought it might have something to do with either the age of the galaxies or the galaxy cluster.  When galaxy clusters are formed, there are a lot of small, young galaxies packed together. As they grow older, the cluster condenses into more distinct points.  Elliptical galaxies are younger, and spiral galaxies are older. A connection to age would explain why the density appears to decrease for spiral galaxies. Also, with age comes expansion, which could create distance between the galaxies within the cluster.

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 5.56.22 PMWorking on this project was a great experience.  My group was a lot of fun to work with, and I think we had a polished final project.  Even though we all had different backgrounds and widely different strengths, I believe that we each did our part to contribute in whatever way we could.  I worked mostly with the data. I filtered it, created the graphs, and tried my best to lead my group in our exploration. Sometimes, it was a little difficult to stay on task, and we were down a team member one of the days, but we finished everything on time.  One thing I was especially proud of was the overall aesthetic of our presentation. I felt like our use of colors, graphics, and charts combined well with abbreviated bullet points so that our presentation was attractive and engaging.

Overall, this program as a whole was a great experience; I absolutely recommend it.  I met so many amazing people, and I got the chance to work on some really cool projects.  Spending my summer at the Adler was really a lot of fun, and I feel that I’ve learned a lot.

Gorongosa Recap

by Samuel Rayas

Hi, I’m Sam and I am currently a junior attending “Senn High School” and a little bit about me is that I love  physics; it’s exciting and interesting. Now to begin the reason for writing this blog, I’m writing to you to explain a small portion of what I have done at the Citizen Science Ambassadors program. Exactly what I have done is work with a team and explore the landscape of Gorongosa through Wildcam Gorongosa. You may ask, What is Gorongosa? To you I say, Gorongosa is currently located in Mozambique and was a place once filled with animals both big and small, but a civil war occurred and this led to the deaths of many native species. After the civil war ended there were conservation efforts made (i.e conservation park) and one way to track the progress of the wildlife was through cameras — wildcam gorongosa– which we used to observe just some of the animals.


Moving on from this point, of explaining exactly what is Gorongosa. I will elaborate on exactly the steps me and my teammates took to further explore Gorongosa and delve into the lives of the habitants (Animals). Firstly my teammates and I did a little bit of exploring of Gorongosa ourselves: making our own observations. Accordingly we started to ask questions such as why some animals were seen more than others at a certain time of day, or why some seemed to travel together while others chose to walk alone. In the end our team came up with the question, Does the size of an animal affect when its ‘out’( time of day) ? We reached this question by combining the aspects of all previous questions into one coherent one.


The reason for establishing the question was to started learning about the lives or aspects that occur within Gorongosa and learn all this through the data that was given to us. The final product came as a slideshow via google slides and this is where we walked through our steps chronologically, in total there were 5 steps which include: Proposing questions based on observations,Construct a testable question,Create a hypothesis and make a prediction, Collection of Data, and Data Analysis. We explained thoroughly what we did, why we did it, and how we came about it– sorry for all the commas recently– then we presented our findings to our peers and that sums it up.  


What I learned exactly through all this is that some animals, such as baboons go out during the day time as they run less of a risk encountering predators such as lions. Not only do they run less risk, but also benefit from the prevalence of birds as Baboons are known to eat birds. To summarize, animals either big or small will adhere to going out because it benefits them and to some extent their size or build does matter; being the top dog matters to some extent. Moving forward, what our team exactly explored was the time of day( night or day) in which animals either big or small were out. We did this through going to the Gorongosa Labs and using filters to sift through the time of day and animals that were caught on camera from both times. We put all the findings on a google spreadsheet and from then on went into making a pie chart as it’d show the decreases, or increases of certain animals from night to day.


In addition to all our findings, there had to be teamwork and this part was crucial to the success of the project as a whole. To begin, some of our strengths as a team were that we always talked about any changes that came along the way and how it would affect our project. Not only did we communicate, but we were nearly always able to reach a consensus and this had to be the key part. Equally though, I can say that there was an achilles heel to our group and that had to be how for one day someone was left to start the project by themselves. I believe this wasn’t fair and had to be tough for our peer to start. Overall, our team did good and I’m proud of us. Exactly what role I played was to start off the presentation and give an overview, as for the four beginning parts of our process.

Of course I didn’t include everything that occurred as that information is miniscule in comparison to the importance of the other topics. I hope you got a grasp of exactly what my team did, and our dynamic. Thanks for listening.