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Virtual Reality Mapping of E+A Galaxies and Candidates in the Coma Cluster and Other Nearby Rich Clusters of Galaxies

Presentation #341.09 in the session “Galaxy Quenching”.

Published onJan 11, 2021
Virtual Reality Mapping of E+A Galaxies and Candidates in the Coma Cluster and Other Nearby Rich Clusters of Galaxies

Virtual reality (VR) technology offers a powerful tool for exploring datasets, allowing for motion through and interaction with plots in three dimensions. Applied to astronomy, VR can give a greater spatial intuition of data such as distributions of individual galaxies in galaxy clusters. We have used the Unity engine to develop visualizations of the distribution and features of E+A galaxies and candidates in four nearby galaxy clusters explored by the Y/dim collaboration: Coma, Hercules, Leo, and Virgo. E+A galaxies are post-starburst galaxies that have recently undergone complete quenching of their star formation, making them a valuable source of information about the evolution of galaxies and their environments. Data for this application comes from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS DR16 and SDSS-IV MaNGA), Galaxy Zoo, and the work of the Y/dim collaborators. The visualizations are 3D interactive plots that are built to be viewed using a dedicated virtual reality headset such as the Oculus Quest. The plots display the galaxies’ location in RA/Dec/velocity space, their morphology, the equivalent widths of their higher order Balmer absorption lines, and specific notable features such as clumps or filaments of galaxies. Preliminary observations using this software revealed numerous “clumps” and structural features of E+A galaxies in the velocity space of the Coma Cluster, where the population of E+As is especially high, and structures in the other clusters such as a “nose” of low-velocity objects in the center of Virgo. This work was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation via the SDSS-IV Faculty and Student Team (FaST) initiative, ARC Agreement SSP483, and by NSF grants AST-1852355, 1852360, 1460939, and 1460860 to the American Museum of Natural History and CUNY College of Staten Island.


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