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Space Science

Galaxy Zoo Produces a Rare Specimen 188

Posted by kdawson
from the hanny's-voorwerp dept.
We discussed the Galaxy Zoo project soon after it launched last summer. Science News is now following developments about an odd celestial object that is fueling a lot of excitement among astronomers around the world. In August, a Dutch schoolteacher named Hanny, in the process of characterizing galaxy images, noticed a peculiar object and posted a query about it on the Galaxy Zoo blog. She called it a "Voorwerp," which Science News says is Dutch for "thing" but which Google translates as "subject." Hanny's Voorwerp emits mostly green light (the earlier report said blue). The best guess astronomers have now is that the Voorwerp is emitting "ghost light," i.e. it is "lit by the ultraviolet light and X-rays from a quasar that has vanished in the last 100,000 years," to quote astronomer Bill Keel. "As far as we can tell, it's an unprecedented thing," Keel added. Researchers are scrambling to book time on the Hubble and other major telescopes to get a closer look.

Voorwerp
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Galaxy Zoo Produces a Rare Specimen

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  • by anotherone (132088) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @02:34PM (#23896135)
    this is the first time I've ever seen slashdot put an image in the post- welcome to 2001, guys!
  • Voorwerp = Thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skinkie (815924) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @02:35PM (#23896139) Homepage
    Voorwerp is 'thing' in Dutch. But when you would like to say 'thing' in Dutch, you would obviously use 'ding'.
    • Re:Voorwerp = Thing (Score:5, Informative)

      by Basje (26968) <bas@bloemsaat.org> on Sunday June 22, 2008 @02:41PM (#23896199) Homepage

      "Item" is a better translation of "voorwerp". "Subject" would be "onderwerp".

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by denver38 (1050472)
        Indeed, and it's not "thing" neither ("ding"). I would call it an "object".
      • Re:Voorwerp = Thing (Score:5, Informative)

        by pnagel (107544) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @03:43PM (#23896669)

        Actually, "object" is an even better translation of "voorwerp".

        And it makes better sense in context too: "astronomers find mystery object" sounds find. "Astronomers find mystery thing" sounds stilted.

        • Yeah, but "Astronomers find mystery voorwerp" makes no contextual sense whatsoever, so we'll take what we can get, stilted or otherwise.

          It sounds like someone whose been kicked in the beans as they approached the business end of the sentence, and it reads like it's actually an english word printed backwards, until you stare at it long enough to imagine it backwards and realise it makes just as much sense backwards as it does forwards.

          Also, WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.
      • Re:Voorwerp = Thing (Score:5, Informative)

        by WarwickRyan (780794) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @04:22PM (#23896973)

        "Object" would be the most accurate translation, taking into account the subject matter.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by tsjaikdus (940791)

        'wat een prachtig voorwerp' translates to 'what a beautiful object'

        Even with Google.

      • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @07:03PM (#23897969)
        Translations from language to language are imprecise because there are often no 1:1 translations. The classic is Dutch "gesellig" which is approximated by "cozy".

        I grew up in South Africa, speaking mainly English, but also Afrikaans (a derivative of Dutch) and Zulu. My father and I would often mix all three in one sentence to get the words we wanted.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Probably the English word "object" would be more appropriate here then "thing". And as a plus, it directly translates to Dutch and back again.

    • Technically, the correct translation would be 'object', in the 'thing' sens of the word.

      "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear"

    • It's the coolest name for a celestial object yet! And you just know that they'll try to slide it into a future Doctor Who. I can't wait to see David Tarrent try to keep a straight face whilst talking about the Vishnish aliens inhabiting the local Voorwerp.
    • by slashnik (181800)

      Voorwerp shmoorwerp

      It's a cosmic frog

  • Voorwerp = object (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The correct translation would be 'object'. I can understand the confusion with 'subject', but Dutch people would then say 'onderwerp', never 'voorwerp'.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I think google means 'subject' like, an artist or photographer's 'subject', rather than say, math, history or entomology.
  • Hey.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Izabael_DaJinn (1231856) * <slashdot@nOSpaM.izabael.com> on Sunday June 22, 2008 @02:44PM (#23896231) Homepage Journal
    That's my taxi-ride home. Thank Xenu!
  • by sayfawa (1099071) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @02:45PM (#23896249)
    ..and we're about to have an Outside Context Problem
  • That's no moon.
  • Voorwerp? (Score:5, Funny)

    by thewiz (24994) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @02:54PM (#23896311)

    I didn't know that was a word.
    That was the sound I made last time I threw up.
    Whodathunkit.

    • by hkz (1266066) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @03:06PM (#23896405)
      I'm Dutch, and the proper translation of voorwerp is actually 'object', though 'thing' comes close enough. We have a funny language sometimes. I like words like 'zodra' and 'zoiets', and saying 'goeiemorgen' has the benefit of being offensive to Russians the way we pronounce it, which since yesterday is a good thing :-)
      • Re:Voorwerp? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 22, 2008 @04:30PM (#23897045)

        Voorwerp is actually an odd word now that I really think about it. It is both generic, which is why it can be properly translated as "thing", and specific, in that it implies a purpose in the item it refers to (the exact purpose to be determined by the context it is used in). It can be translated as tool, thing, object, or item depending on the context it is used in.

        Example uses of voorwerp, which all have different translations:
        lijdend voorwerp - object (in grammar) [wikipedia.org]
        meewerkend voorwerp - dative case [wikipedia.org]
        gevonden voorwerpen - lost & found [wikipedia.org] (typically referring both to the items and the booth/office to reclaim them)
        onbekend vliegend voorwerp - unidentified flying object [wikipedia.org]

        Regarding the context of TFA, there is a very subtle implication which gets lost in whatever translation you may attempt: voorwerp implies a solid (crafted) object, which is why "thing" is the best translation in this case. It is very odd to refer to a celestial cloud as a solid item, and it says a lot about the peculiarity of the voorwerp...

        • by DoubleEdd (178052)

          It's a name that kind of stuck rather than being chosen by a large committee discussing all the details, to be honest!

      • by notnAP (846325)
        ...offensive to Russians the way we pronounce it, which since yesterday is a good thing :-)

        I put the over/under on American /. users who get this reference at about 5%.

      • by Angostura (703910) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @06:42PM (#23897863)

        Mind if I go off-topic for a moment, since there is an expert in the room? No, good.

        Several years ago, when I was in France, I took a group of children to racing stables where they bred racing horses - a stud farm. While we were walking around, we met a charming, well-spoken Dutch couple in their 60s who chatted about this and that, and then indicating the breeding stables asked "So, tell me - do you have fuckeries like this England?" At least that's what I'm 90% sure they said.

        I presume that "fuck" exists in the Dutch language and that their on-the-fly translation attempt misfired?

        • Re:Voorwerp? (Score:5, Informative)

          by MtHuurne (602934) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @06:57PM (#23897933) Homepage
          The Dutch verb "fokken" means "to breed"; "fokkerij" is a place where animals are bred.
          • by Askmum (1038780) on Monday June 23, 2008 @03:17AM (#23900595)
            To which there is a little dutch joke.
            A Dutch guy talks to an English guy:
            D: I fok horses!
            E: Pardon?
            D: Yes, paarden!

            Explanation: the term "fok horses" is the above misconjunction of fokken -> to fuck, instead of breed, and pardon, when spoken, can be misconstrued as "paarden" which is dutch for "horses".
        • Mind if I go off-topic for a moment, since there is an expert in the room? No, good.

          Several years ago, when I was in France, I took a group of children to racing stables where they bred racing horses - a stud farm. While we were walking around, we met a charming, well-spoken Dutch couple in their 60s who chatted about this and that, and then indicating the breeding stables asked "So, tell me - do you have fuckeries like this England?" At least that's what I'm 90% sure they said.

          I presume that "fuck" exists in the Dutch language and that their on-the-fly translation attempt misfired?

          Holland suddenly sounds more interesting.

    • by Blakey Rat (99501)

      Well, now that I know about it, it's the name of my next World of Warcraft character!

  • W00t! Another one bites the dust!

    I would translate "Voorwerp" as "Object".
    It's weird. That thing, whatever it might be, is probably quadrillions times bigger than our Earth, it's looking at us, and we have no idea what it is.
    I for one welcome our new Voorwerp-overlords.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @02:59PM (#23896349)

    Researchers are scrambling to book time on the Hubble and other major telescopes to get a closer look.
    What's the rush? Isn't this celestial thing going to be out there and available for, say, the next few million years or so?
  • Green, Blue? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @03:03PM (#23896373)

    How far away is this 'thing' and what sort of red shift should we be factoring into its true color?

    Once that has been answerd, what sorts of atoms would emit that wavelength when excited by a radiation source?

  • don't open the box [youtube.com]. (well it does look like a frog doesn't it?).

    Andy

  • Zoo (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Where is the "Don't feed the Voorwerp" sign?

    • by Urkki (668283)

      Well, it seems they stopped feeding the central mouth of the Voorwerp a while ago. So it may be they had the sign, but they already moved it to another exhibit.

      Just a speculation, mind you.

  • Did anyone else see Kermit the Frog in this image?

  • I'd say it's God's booger.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by owlnation (858981)

      I'd say it's God's booger.
      And we should fear the coming of the great handkerchief. If our glorious leaders decide to build a "B Ark" it'll be time to overthrow them (if it isn't already overdue).
    • by 4D6963 (933028)

      I'd say it's God's booger.

      Indeed. I'm letting you guess how God made clouds of comets [wikipedia.org]. If then you consider the theories of panspermia, you'll eventually realise the real nature of our planet.

      That's right, the Earth is an ovule. Now you know.

  • The Vorrwerp Story (Score:5, Informative)

    by Waveney (301457) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @03:31PM (#23896591) Homepage
  • The original article probably said the light was blue because many languages out there do not make a distinction between the colors green and blue.
    • Re:Green vs. Blue (Score:5, Informative)

      by imsabbel (611519) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @03:55PM (#23896771)

      No.
      Its because those pics only use 3 of the 5 colour channels.
      As there are no R/G/B sensors, everything is an approximation.
      Some of the early ones looked blue, even though green would be a better optical equivalent (most likely because they weighted some near UV radiation as blue)

    • by bigsmoke (701591)

      Dutch does have this distinction. Green is 'groen' and blue is 'blauw'.

    • by 0111 1110 (518466)

      because many languages out there do not make a distinction between the colors green and blue.
      That is interesting if true. Can you give some examples?
  • by ABoerma (941672)

    'Voorwerp' would be most accurately traslated as 'Object'.

    • by McDutchie (151611)

      'Voorwerp' would be most accurately traslated as 'Object'.

      For the language nerds, it might be interesting to know that 'voorwerp' is in fact a direct loan translation [wikipedia.org] of Latin 'obiectum' (object).

    • by owlstead (636356)

      And "voor" is pronounced like door. "Werp" uses an "e" like in nanny (the way somebody from Texas would pronounce it). Then you have the r's which are really pronounced as the r in, well, "really". The P is really sharp as well.

      OK, now try to pronounce it, it should be good for a few laughs :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I recommend photon torpedoes.

    Thing at sector 5, 7 : "AAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEEAAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!"
    Thing at sector 5, 7 : "HACK! HACK! COUGH! *CHOKE!*"
    Mr. Spock : "FASCINATING!"

  • Looks more like a Quagaar to me.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Sunday June 22, 2008 @06:30PM (#23897785) Journal
    really should have turned the extractor fans on in the bathroom.
  • by jordandeamattson (261036) <jordandmNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday June 22, 2008 @07:26PM (#23898131) Homepage

    Folks ask, "Why the rush?" to get time on the Hubble and other instruments.

    Simply put, astronomical events can be extremely short lived. Yes, it happened millions of years ago. And it could continue for millions of years. But just as it appeared, it could go out.

    Think what happens to novas and super novas. They blink into existence and then disappear. The same could happen here. Having never seen this class of voorwerp (object, thing, etc.), it is possible it could go out tomorrow or change dramatically in way which would make baseline data of the current status incredibly valuable.

    Going a bit off topic here, I have to say it is totally cool to see a reference to my old friend and fellow Geek, Bill Keel here on Slashdot.

    Bill and I attended UC Santa Cruz in the 1980s. I entered as a Freshman while Bill was finishing up his Phd in Astronomy (by the way, UC Santa has the top graduate program in Astronomy).

    Even then he was the galaxy nerd and his dissertation was on the topic of, if I remember correctly, formation of spiral galaxies. I remember helping him with nroff and troff as he put his dissertation together.

    During his Post-Doc years, he would come back frequently to perform observations at Lick Observatory (above San Jose) and to crunch data using a program written in Forth that ran on a handful of systems in the world (one of which was at UCSC).

    Our friendship continued over the years (I was even one of his groomsmen).

    Bill is a passionate teacher and researcher. He is very supportive of amateur astronomy (one of the few fields left where a non-professional, non-academic can have a major impact).

    If you want to learn more about galaxies, check out one of his many web pages here: http://www.astr.ua.edu/keel/galaxies/ [ua.edu].

  • Voorwerp? Sounds something like the Juffo-wup the Mycon were interested in.

  • You can't really see this from a static picture, but I think I have figured out the true nature of this object. Subsequent pictures should show the lower half (the part that looks like an open mouth) is actually a pair of huge legs in a seemingly closed position. These legs actually open and close in a predictable rhythm. Also not shown in the picture is the turret moving around attempting to track this thing as it rapidly zips back and forth across the cosmos, getting ever closer to the turret below.

    If

  • The hi-res version [sciencenews.org] looks like Gumby [google.com] making a basketball hoop with his arms.

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