Thursday, August 7, 2008
Armchair Astronomer Discovers Cosmic Ghost.
(CNN) -- Hanny van Arkel was poring over photos of galaxies on the Internet in August 2007 when she stumbled across a strange object in the night sky: a bright, gaseous mass with a gaping hole in its middle.
"It looked a bit like an irregular galaxy, but I wasn't sure what it was," Van Arkel said. So she posted a query on the Web site of the Galaxy Zoo project, which encourages members of the public to join in astronomy research online.
Van Arkel is a 25-year-old schoolteacher in Heerlen, The Netherlands, not an astrophysicist. But her startling find -- a mysterious and unique object some observers are calling a "cosmic ghost" -- has captivated astronomers and even caught the attention of the people who run the Hubble Space Telescope, who have agreed to take a closer look next year.
"This discovery really shows how citizen science has come of age in the Internet world," said Bill Keel, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Alabama and a Galaxy Zoo team member. "There was a time when I spoke pejoratively of armchair astronomers. And I've gotten up at a star party and publicly apologized for that
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