University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics and Astronomy Calendar

Monday, March 20th 2017
12:15 pm:
Speaker: Hugh Dickinson, UMN
Subject:  Visual Classification of Illustris Galaxy Morphologies: Evaluating Cosmological Simulations using Galaxy Zoo

Illustris is one of the first large-scale simulation projects with sufficient resolution and physical realism to model the evolution of galaxy-sized structures within a wider cosmological context. If synthetic observational data for the Illustris galaxies accurately emulate observations of galaxies in the real Universe, then arguments for corresponding parity between physics and history of galaxy formation in simulation and reality and become more credible. Conversely, discrepancies between the simulated and observed populations can be used to infer shortcomings of the Illustris simulation and identify avenues for its potential enhancement.

I will briefly review two traditional approaches that have already been used to quantify the degree of correspondence between simulated and observed galaxy properties. I will then introduce an ongoing initiative to obtain visual morphological classifications for the Illustris galaxies using the Galaxy Zoo citizen science platform. Comparing the initial results of this study with identically obtained data for galaxies observed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey indicates substantial mismatches between the visual appearance of the real and simulated datasets. I will explore the contexts in which these disparities are apparent before discussing plausible explanations for their origin and promising avenues for further investigation.

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