Citizen science reshapes cosmology
Life ends, sad but true. It is the way every species rids itself of the spectre of catastrophic overpopulation in any species given to reproduce. Not all do, and those that never have children tend to live for thousands of years, but they are all plants and even then they form a tiny minority. Being perhaps more keenly aware of their mortal existence than other species, many people are rather keen to leave some sort of lasting mark on the world. Some build business empires named after themselves, and others live quiet unassuming lives until an innocent discovery in a citizen science project they are taking part in catapults them to relative stardom themselves when the unusual galaxy they spot turns out to be uniquely interesting.
Dutch primary school teacher Hanny’s van Arkel was taking part in the citizen science project Galaxy Zoo one evening when she spotted a galaxy ten years ago that turned out to be an as then unknown galactic formation of paradigm shifting importance to astronomy and “Hanny’s Voorwerp” was subsequently named after her. Starting as a call for volunteers to help classify galaxies in the images produced by space telescopes, the collaborative project made spectacular discoveries, spawning a family of similar projects now collectively known as the Zooniverse.