This Week’s “Where In the Universe?” Challenge

Have you seen this image before? You know you have. It’s probably right on the tip of your tongue. This is the image for this week’s “Where In The Universe?” challenge. The goal of this challenge is to test your skills and visual knowledge of our universe. Guess the name of this image, and give yourself extra points if you can guess the telescope or project that this image came from (is that a clue? It’s not from a spacecraft…). As always, don’t peek below before you make your guess. Comments on how you did are welcome.

A highly scientific illustration of the Voorwerp.  Courtesy Galaxy Zoo
A highly scientific illustration of the Voorwerp. Courtesy Galaxy Zoo

This image is of “Hanny’s Voorwerp” from the Galaxy Zoo project, which in turn, is part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which uses a 2.5-meter telescope on Apache Point, NM, to scan the sky. ‘Voorwerp’ is Dutch for ‘object’, and ‘Hanny’ refers to Hanny van Arkel, a Dutch school teacher. The voorwerp is the blue blob just below the big galaxy. Hanny found the object as she was classifying galaxies from astronomical images as part Galaxy Zoo’s “citizen science” project, where volunteers classify galaxies as spiral or eliptical. As for what the blob is, no one knows for sure. Yet.

Other spectral images show the blob as green, which is probably closer to how our eyes would actually see it if we were close enough. It’s about 700 million light years from Earth and the Voorwerp itself is about 65,000 light years across.

Hanny’s Voorwerp has been of interest to lots of folks, and an astronomer at the William Herschel telescope at La Palma took a spectrum of the Voorwerp, in an effort to help figure out what it is. The spectrum showed that the Voorwerp is at the same distance as the big galaxy. This implies that it’s really big and luminous.

The the best explanation might be that the Voorwerp got its energy from light that was once emitted by a bright quasar. The big galaxy, called IC 2497 is thought to have once hosted the quasar that lit up Hanny’s Voorwerp.

From the Galaxy Zoo Blog: “What is the Voorwerp? That’s not too clear yet. We have to properly analyse the spectrum to understand what exactly is going on. It’s likely forming stars at a huge rate, ionising lots of gas and making it shine. We’re also trying to get a deeper image to see if there’s evidence of an interaction between the big galaxy and the Voorwerp.”

If you’re not familiar with Galaxy Zoo, check it out. It’s a lot of fun. If you’re good at this challenge, you’d be a great help over at Galaxy Zoo. And who knows? Maybe you could find the next unusual object!

21 Replies to “This Week’s “Where In the Universe?” Challenge”

  1. This time, zero, zip, no clue. Which is sad, because I had already seen several pictures of the Hanny’s Voorverp, almost certainly including this one. Maybe even in UT. I failed to recognize it, though.

    This should be “where in the Solar System”, not “where in the universe”. I always fail these faraway destinations. Humpf…


  2. Hanny’s Voorwerp, Galaxy Zoo. Will be instantly recognisable to me forever. What an awesome story that made!

  3. Hanny’s Voorwerp, SDSS gri color composite, no doubt. Great shot of this mysterious object. Still waiting for Bill Keel’s paper on this object.

  4. Didn’t need the clue at all. I didn’t remember the exact name, but I knew it was an object of unknown nature discovered by a teacher in Sweden (yup, that was wrong) via the Galaxy Zoo project. 🙂

  5. Neil, if the voorwerp is indeed assosiated with that galaxy, i.e., if it’s that far away from us, it can’t be a supernova remnant. A supernova cannot produce a remnant 65 thousand light-years across, particularly one so bright as to be seen 700 million light years away.

  6. I recognized it immediately! I am geekier than I though — these challenges usually make me guess (I’m 50/50 on right/wrong).

  7. I either get it right away or have no clue – got this one right away =-)

    Go Hanny, its your birthday!

    Looking forward to the GZ upgrade coming out soon!!!

  8. i like this feature, but i think if you give us the picture, a few facts and a day or two to talk about it we might remember a bit more about the actual object. maybe even try to find it by looking through things.
    definitely a lot more fun than just flipping the page, getting the answer and seeing the same people lie about how they guessed it right off the bat

  9. Hi! one for a change got it almost right…guess the project and SDSS though couldnt exactly get the name…atleast i think i score half for this….
    Thanks Nancy for this very intriguing object….

  10. Finally one right! And that’s because I got to know Galaxy Zoo through the APOD of Hanny’s Voorwerp. Anyway, together with Universe Today, Galaxy Zoo is one of the coolest sites on the net.

  11. I agree with moonlight maker in thiking this would be more fun if the answer wasn’t given right away. I actually suggested a 24-hour wait between question and answer back when the game was in the beginning, so the idea isn’t new.

    I don’t think there are many people lying, though. I see people getting things right, getting things wrong, then getting things right again, and then wrong. Plenty of partial hits. That’s more consistent with people being honest than with people trying to show off. And, quite frankly, if anyone is lying, he/she is an idiot. Period. This is a game that would be completely uninteresting if it wasn’t for the self-challenge factor. And nobody keeps scores.

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