Computers have given scientists a big assist when it comes to finding and classifying space objects in telescope images. But some galaxies are so elusive, it requires human power to find them. That was the case with Donatiello II, a dwarf galaxy spotted by Italian amateur astronomer Giuseppe Donatiello.
The European Space Agency on Friday released an image from the Hubble Space Telescope that looks like a typical wide view of a section of the universe. There are stars and obvious galaxies, including some lovely spirals. ESA challenged space fans to spot the newly discovered Donatiello II hiding out in the image.
Yes, that smudgy-looking collection of stars in the center is the elusive galaxy. "If you cannot quite distinguish the clump of faint stars that is all we can see of Donatiello II in this image, then you are in good company," said ESA, which runs Hubble as a joint project with NASA.
An algorithm designed to search for galaxies missed this one, but Donatiello the astronomer found it and two others by digging through data from the Dark Energy Camera on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope in Chile.
The Hubble image of Donatiello II represents an independent confirmation of the galaxy, which also happens to be a satellite of the much better known Sculptor galaxy (NGC 253), a bright spiral that's visible to small telescopes.
ESA described Donatiello's search as laborious. On the bright side, he now has galaxies Donatiello II, III and IV named for him.