Hanny’s Voorwerp – History of a mystery

The original SDSS image seen by Hanny.

The original SDSS image seen by Hanny.

Many of you (especially Galaxy Zoo fans) will probably already know the story of Dutch schoolteacher Hanny and her mystery ‘voorwerp‘, but for those of you who don’t, here it is. In 2007 while classifying galaxies on the fledgling Galaxy Zoo website, citizen scientist Hanny van Arkel came across an object that she was unsure how to classify. It appeared as blue squiggle (for want of a better word) near the spiral galaxy IC 2497. She flagged it, and further investigation revealed that it was at the same distance as IC 2497 and comparable in size to the Milky Way. It was a brand new type of astronomical object previously unknown to scientists, and discovered by a citizen! ‘Voorwerp’ is a Dutch word meaning ‘object’ (squiggle might have been better), and now thanks to further examination of the Galaxy Zoo data by citizen scientists several more of these objects have been discovered.

To find out more about Hanny’s Voorwerp check out these Galaxy Zoo blog posts:

http://blog.galaxyzoo.org/2008/01/31/the-mystery-of-the-voorwerp-deepens/

http://blog.galaxyzoo.org/2011/01/10/hannys-voorwerp-and-hubble-what-did-we-learn/

or read the discovery paper here http://arxiv.org/abs/0906.5304, or even the webcomic that the story inspired!

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