Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hanny's Voorwerp

No one knows what that blue thing in the picture is. It's called "Hanny's Voorwerp" (Hanny is the name of the Dutch guy who discovered it; Voorwerp means "object" in Dutch). It's gas of some kind, and something is (or was) lighting it up, but no one can figure out what is (or was) doing the actual lighting up.

It looks like a little blue alien guy to me, his arms hugging something we can't see. Or maybe he's doing the hokey-pokey. You put your voorwerp in, you put your voorwerp out....

The theory currently making the rounds is that the galaxy in the middle of the picture once had a big, bright quasar that lit up the voorwerp (I love that word), then disappeared. So the quasar is gone, but evidence of it's light remains in the voorwerp.

The coolest thing about it is that is was discovered by an amateur astronomer. There's this site called Galaxy Zoo where regular folks can log into a vast catalog of galaxy images and classify them, thus helping out the scientific community, not to mention being able to look a a bunch of cool galaxy pictures. SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Life) does this too. Hanny was doing just that, classifying galaxies, saw the blue blob, told the Galaxy Zoo about it, and the rest is history.

Don't know if they're gonna let Hanny name it or not.


Eric Shonkwiler said...

It was green the last time I saw it. What's the deal?

Nancy Dancehall said...

How close is that thing?

I love words. But you knew that.

"Yeti" is apparently Himalayan for "That big furry thing over there." As in, "Hey, Sherpa what's that big furry thing over there?"

Props to Gaiman.

meno said...

You know what it looks like to me?

I'll give you a hint: It's not easy being blue.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Um... Hanny van Arkel is a lady, actually.
She's a 25 year old dutch school teacher who knows zip about astronomy but wanted to help search through all the gazillions of photos at galaxy zoo, saw this unusual image and pointed it out to the guys in charge.

Yes, she gets to name it.

I would like to think that there's enough up there that you and I could find some interesting thing or other and get to name it, too.

Let's keep looking, shall we?

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Noel said...

This is why I enjoy your blog. You touch on deep topics such as life and belonging without directly addressing them. You have such a fine hand with words and details, it's wonderful.

And now that you mention it's hugging something, I can't un-see the hug.

Clowncar said...

They use different filters to look for different details, and each filter produces a different color, Eric. I got the sense that blue is the most accurate approximation of what the "true" color is.

Don't know how close it is, Nancy. My guess would be: far. I thought you'd dig the word "voorweep." Used it 7 times in that post. And again just now, for eight. Voorweep! Oops, did it again.

Yes, meno, it does look kinda froggy.

Scarlett, already gave you props in my newest post for catching the gender switch. I'll keep my eyes to the skies if you will. I'd love to discover a comet some day.

Thank you for such kind words, Noel. I'm trying to learn to write around the perimeter of my subjects, rather than attack directly. I now see a frog, thanks to Meno, and cannot un-see it. You coined a good word, there: un-see.