If you’ve never heard of Galaxy Zoo, then prepare to be impressed. It’s a project which relies on volunteers that help with classifying images of galaxies. The project started with Hanny van Arkel, a Dutch teacher from a primary school who was browsing the internet for some guitar info. There she found out that Brian May, the guitarist from Queen, was looking for people to sign up for a project regarding astrophysics.
Miss Van Arkel signed up for that project and spent her summer holiday in order to discover her own galaxy. Little did she know that spotting a blue blaze in one of her pictures of the sky will make her a celebrity among scientists. At first, she thought it was smudge but one year later they realized that it was a new unknown object from space.
It turned out that the blue blob was a hot cloud made from gas that might have appeared from materials that dropped to a black hole at the center of a closer galaxy. This cloud is named after her (Hanny’s Voorwerp, where Voorwerp means a thing) and is some kind of a “light echo” which has a various power of illumination that change when the nearest galaxy’s activity does.
Over the span of ten years, the project helped to discover more voorwerpen, with the help of powerful telescopes, such as Hubble. The change they saw in different degrees of light shows that galaxies are active, and changes the perception of our galaxy which was considered inactive.
Another interesting fact that was discovered with the help of Miss Van Arkel was that the light echoes from the voorwerpen show a recent past of the near galaxy because they are closer to it than we are.
Hanny van Arkel is also very pleased that with the Hubble telescope they were able to get amazing pictures that showed these voorwerpen in all their glory and color.
Since the beginning of the project and their discoveries, a lot of people started to browse their old website, searching for information or debating. They even caused over population which lead to moving their servers from Johns Hopkins University to virtual hosting servers. And no wonder it has been an attractive project since it encouraged everyone to help with discovering a new face of our Universe.