Radio Galaxy Zoo and supermassive black holes

Radio Galaxy Zoo is a citizen science project designed to hunt for supermassive black holes and consists of radio observations from the Jansky Very Large Array (JVLA) and the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA).  Black holes are found at the centre of most, if not all, galaxies. The bigger the galaxy, the bigger the black hole and the more sensational the effect it can have on the host galaxy. These supermassive black holes drag in nearby material, growing to billions of times the mass of our sun and occasionally producing spectacular jets of material traveling nearly as fast as the speed of light. These jets often can't be detected in visible light, but are seen using radio telescopes. We can detect these supermassive black holes by observing the effect they have on their surroundings. There are a number of methods for probing those surroundings, but for the supermassive black holes found at the centre of galaxies, any optical or infrared light is obscured by large amounts of gas and dust. Fortunately, the jets of material spewed out by these supermassive black holes can be observed in the radio wavelengths. There is a great deal of valuable information that can be obtained from the radio images of these jets, but we need to understand the host galaxy too. For instance, observing the host galaxy allows us to determine its distance, which is critical to understanding how big and how luminous the black hole actually is.  

The student will have the opportunity to be a part of the international team and produce science in collaboration with the Zooniverse and Galaxy Zoo. Depending on the motivation of the student there are a number of types of projects from understanding new discoveries to education and outreach opportunities.