Tuesday, October 21, 2008

'Cosmic Ghost' found by amateur astronomer, NASA responds

A Netherlands schoolteacher analyzing deep space photos at the Galaxy Zoo project stumbled across "a bright, gaseous mass with a gaping hole in its middle," a giant cosmic doughnut that some are referring to as a "cosmic ghost," reports CNN.

Our best guess is that there was once a quasar at the center of the massive gas cloud (it's thousands of light years across), which eventually burned out, but its light still echoes through the cloud.

This may be a new class of astronomical object, according to the CNN report, and that has NASA's attention. Next year, they'll turn Hubble's gaze on the object.

The find is remarkable for another reason, which may signal the beginning of a new era in space exploration and discovery. According to one expert, "this discovery really shows how citizen science has come of age in the Internet world." Instead of peering through small telescopes in their back yard, "armchair astronomers" are just as likely to be "analyzing reams of sophisticated data" online.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.