Armchair astronomers have helped discover a batch of tiny galaxies that may help professional astronomers understand how galaxies formed stars in the early universe.
Dubbed the "Green Peas," the galaxies are forming stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way despite being 10 times smaller and 100 times less massive. They are between 1.5 billion and 5 billion light years away
"These are among the most extremely active star-forming galaxies we've ever found," said Carolin Cardamone, lead author of a paper on the discoveries to be published in an upcoming issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The discoveries were made as part of a project called Galaxy Zoo, where Internet users volunteer their spare time to help classify galaxies for an online image database.
Murmurs of a potential discovery began when a group of volunteers who called themselves the "Peas Corps" and the "Peas Brigade" started a discussion in an online forum about a group of strange bright green objects. The original forum thread was called "Give peas a chance."
The volunteers ? many of whom had no previous astronomy background or experience ? were asked to refine their image samples and submit them to a lab for color analysis. Once the findings were verified, researchers analyzed the light emanating from the galaxies to determine the degree of star formation taking place within them.
"No one person could have done this on their own," Cardamone said. "Even if we had managed to look through 10,000 of these images, we would have only come across a few Green Peas and wouldn't have recognized them as a unique class of galaxies."
Of the one million galaxies that make up the image bank, the researchers found only 250 Green Peas.
"These galaxies would have been normal in the early universe, but we just don't see such active galaxies today,? said Kevin Schawinski, co-founder of Galaxy Zoo. ?Understanding the Green Peas may tell us something about how stars were formed in the early universe and how galaxies evolve."
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