Zooniverse’s Space Warps project calls on citizen scientists to help discover elusive objects in the universe by looking through images that have never before been seen. Computer algorithms have already scanned the images, but there are likely to be many more space warps that the algorithms have missed. Space Warps’ creators think that it's only with human help that all of them will be found.
Einstein's theory of gravity, General Relativity, predicted that massive objects, such as stars, would bend the space around them such that passing light rays follow curved paths. Evidence for this theory was first obtained by Arthur Eddington in 1919, when during a solar eclipse he observed that stars near the edge of the Sun appeared to be slightly out of position.
Observations of the distorted background galaxy can also provide useful information about the object that is behaving as a gravitational lens. The separation and distortion of the lensed images can tell astronomers how much mass there is in the object, and how it is arranged. It’s one of the few ways of mapping out where the dark matter in the universe is, how “clumpy” it is and how dense it is near the centers of galaxies. Knowing this can provide crucial information about how galaxies evolve.
Gravitational lenses help astronomers answer all kinds of questions, including how many very low mass stars–that aren’t bright enough to detect directly–are lurking in distant galaxies. Read more on the Space Warps blog.
PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arfon Smith, Director of Citizen Science