Total Amateurs Discover 'Green Pea' Galaxies

Armchair astronomers have helped discovera batch of tiny galaxies that may help professional astronomers understand how galaxies formedstars in the early universe.

Dubbed the "GreenPeas," the galaxies are forming stars 10 times faster than the Milky Way despite being 10 timessmaller and 100 times less massive. They are between 1.5billion and 5 billion light years away

"These are among themost extremely active star-forming galaxies we've ever found," saidCarolin Cardamone, lead author of a paper on the discoveries to be published in an upcomingissue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The discoveries were made aspart of a project called Galaxy Zoo, where Internet users volunteer their sparetime to help classify galaxies for an online image database.

Murmurs of a potentialdiscovery began when a group of volunteers who called themselves the "PeasCorps" and the "Peas Brigade" started a discussion in an onlineforum about a group of strange bright green objects. The original forum threadwas called "Give peas a chance."

The volunteers ? many ofwhom had no previous astronomy background or experience ? were asked to refinetheir image samples and submit them to a lab for color analysis. Once thefindings were verified, researchers analyzed the light emanating from thegalaxies to determine the degree of starformation taking place within them.

"No one person couldhave done this on their own," Cardamone said. "Even if we had managedto look through 10,000 of these images, we would have only come across a fewGreen Peas and wouldn't have recognized them as a unique class ofgalaxies."

Of the one million galaxies that make up the image bank,the researchers found only 250 Green Peas.

"These galaxies wouldhave been normal in the early universe, but we just don't see such activegalaxies today,? said Kevin Schawinski, co-founder of Galaxy Zoo.?Understanding the Green Peas may tell us something about howstars were formed in the early universe and howgalaxies evolve."

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