Hanny’s… Hanny’s what?
Hanny’s website, about Hanny’s Voorwerp and Hanny’s life. See ‘about’ for more information.
Aren’t you Dutch?
Ja, dat klopt. My website is in English though, so my English friends can read along too. However, if you want to send me a message or comment, you can also do so in Dutch. See ‘contact’ for my e-mail address. En als je me in het Nederlands een berichtje stuurt, zal ik niet in het Engels antwoorden.
That’s indeed close to how you pronounce the Dutch ‘voorwerp’, which means (little) ‘object’. You can read about my astronomical find and how it got that name on the Voorwerp page.
Is Hanny’s Voorwerp green or blue?
On the first picture I saw of it, which is from the SDSS, it was blue. Hence my question “What’s the blue stuff below?” On newer pictures, taken with other telescopes, the Voorwerp looks green. This difference has to do with the filters a camera uses. In any case, the human eye sees it in green. You can see all the pictures of it on the Voorwerp page.
Your English is amazing, where did you learn that?
Thanks. I learned English in school, from films and songs, but I think my skills really improved when I met a few (English) people through Galaxy Zoo, who I now speak to every day.
In which school do you work?
Since January 2010 I’m teaching (mainly biology) at the CITAVERDE College in Heerlen, which I enjoy very much.
Are you also on profile sites like Facebook and Twitter?
To be honest, yes. Don’t bother finding me on Facebook though; I can’t really keep up with that. I do love twitter, so if you want to know what I’m up to, follow me. And if you just want to have a look at my profile, there’s one here.
Did your discovery make you rich?
Yeah. There are articles about me in newspapers, magazines and on the internet, I did radio interviews for stations all over the world and I appeared on national and international television. I’ve been invited to give lectures about the project, my find and how it changed my life in beautiful locations through Europe and everything always has been taken care of very well. I meet lots of interesting people and since my name is on every official proposal and the scientific papers, I get to see how all of that works. And yes, I think those experiences make me rich. Did somebody pay me because I pointed astronomers to this rare object? Don’t be silly.
I want to buy a telescope, can you give me some advice?
No, I don’t have one myself either.
Are you going to study astronomy now?
Life is like a box of chocolates and all that, but no, that’s not my plan. I like being a teacher and I’m good at that. Astronomy has become one of my hobbies.
You/your family must be proud eh?
Well, getting that image on my screen can be compared with winning the lottery, I guess. And most of my friends are down to earth and think “you only asked a question, but it’s cool” – which I really like. On the other hand, I also got reactions saying this is so typically me: seeing details and asking questions. And indeed, if I hadn’t sent the astronomers an e-mail about it, I wouldn’t be where I am now either. So personally I think it’s a bit of both chance and curiosity.
Did you discover anything else?
Not like Hanny’s Voorwerp. I did however post another strange object on the forum of Galaxy Zoo, which the astronomers looked into. In the same week I found the Voorwerp, I also got this picture of a nice ‘little’ green and round thingy. I didn’t know exactly what that was either, and with my post I simply wrote: “Give peas a chance.” Yes, after Lennon’s song and yes, as a joke. Other users found more of them and started posting them too, which lead to stories about me making pea soup. Anyway, that’s how they got named ‘Peas’. They turned out to be a new class of objects and if you want to know more, have a look at the Pea Galaxies page.
I want to discover something too, can you give me some advice?
Well a good way to start would be joining the Zooniverse. And more generally: have an open mind, be curious and not afraid of asking questions. If you want to become a scientist – or anything else for that matter – my advice is to focus on that and work hard for it. Enjoy what you’re doing and keep thinking positive.
Do you still classify galaxies on Galaxy Zoo?
Yes, but not as much to be honest. I’ve also checked out all the new Zooniverse projects, such as Moon Zoo and Supernova Zoo, but my participation in the project shifted to being an ambassador for it; going out doing lectures, interviews and promoting it at events. I’m also moderating the Galaxy Zoo forum and I’m involved in the investigations of Hanny’s Voorwerp and the outreach work that comes with that.
I heard you found out about Galaxy Zoo through Brian May; did you ever meet him?
Yes, we’re pals. I first heard of the Zoo on his website and we met a couple of times after the discovery of Hanny’s Voorwerp. He thinks it’s a nice story. And it appeared in The Cosmic Tourist, the book Brian wrote together with Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott.
How did your life change after your discovery?
Quite a lot in some ways and very little in others. In short, it obviously gave me a lot of new experiences, but I haven’t changed anything drastic about my everyday life because of it.
Can you come to my school/business and tell us about your find?
Sure. For questions about lectures you can find my e-mail address under ‘contact’. Please also read my lectures page for more information.
Can I have your autograph?
When you come up to me after a lecture for instance, sure. However, I’ve had a couple of requests via e-mail to print pictures to sign and then send via mail and I’m afraid I can’t do that. For those who can’t attend one of my presentations, I can only send you a signed picture via e-mail.
Do people actually ask you these questions?