The Voor-What?


I am pleased to announce that Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp is now available for free download or purchase in hard copy.

Who and the what? Well, actually, this is a collaboration between a bunch of friends of mine and NASA. It’s science outreach telling the story of a highly successful bit of citizen science. I’ll let Pamela Gay explain the background:

Sometimes, as an astronomer, I get to do some really weird stuff. This summer is one of those times. I actually, thanks to project PI (i.e. lead) Bill Keel, got an opportunity to help produce a comic book telling the story of how a Dutch school teacher found the light echo of a once bright Quasar. Light echos, like sound echos, for when waves (in this case light waves) bounce of a surface and reflect back to an observer, arriving after waves that took a more direct path. A man on a cliff may holler, with his initial outcry reaching you in factions of a second, while the reflection of his voice off a distant outcrop of rock may reach you a few moments later.

Trying to figure out that a random green blob of gas is a light echo was anything but easy. In this comic book, we try and tell the story of what it was like for the people involved and how exactly astronomy – in its not exactly Indiana Jones fashion – can be an amazing adventure.

Kelly McCullough also played a critical role at this July’s CONvergence:

Workshop: Hanny finds the Voorwerp and goes to wise astronomers to seek knowledge, but is told she has found something new and magical, and is sent to discover the true nature of the object. Join our band of writers and illustrators as we chronicle Hanny’s journey.

Jason Thibeault took part in the workshops and provided a chunk of the writing:

At CONvergence, we took part in several panels (there’s even photographic proof of the back of my and Kelly’s heads!) with Kelly McCullough, author of the WebMage series and all-around stand-up guy, the enthusiastic and incredibly sweet Dr. Pamela L. Gay, and the immensely knowledgeable Bill Keel, discussing how to go about turning the discovery and investigation of Hanny’s Voorwerp into a web comic in order to provide a manner of outreach, bringing the obvious human interest aspects of the story to the public. As it turns out, by doing so, we volunteered to help co-author the web comic. Not that I wasn’t absolutely honoured by the fact!

So we wrote several of the pages’ dialogue to help shoulder some of the burden, then Kelly gave them all a going-over to ensure we were all “on the same page”, so to speak. And for what minimal amount of effort we put in, we got a co-writing credit on the front page of the comic.

Me? Well, I had nothing at all to do with it. I just think my friends got together and produced something both truly awesome and beautifully inspiring, inspiring in a way more things should be. So go, check out the comic, and consider passing it around to others, both as inspiration for more involvement in science and as inspiration for ways to get yet more people involved.