A bloke with a scope

Amateur  astronomer discovers a galaxy far, far away

 Canberra Times    |    6 January 2016

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As captain of the Australian strongman team, Michael Sidonio conquered the physical world, but his past achievements pale beside the astronomical find he helped uncover. With a paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Sidonio, a security controller at the ACT’s Legislative Assembly, and his co-authors announced the existence of NGC 253-dw2, a new galaxy.

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Galaxy

One clear night, from his tiny observatory on the outskirts of Canberra, Sidonio captured what he thought was a beautiful photograph of a galaxy about 11.5 million light years from the Milky Way.

A tiny, barely perceptible smudge on the edge of the image caught the attention of astrophysicists.

Sidonio had noticed the same smudge, but brushed it off as a galaxy that someone else, surely, had already seen. Bigger telescopes and further investigations by a team of professional astronomers confirmed it was a new find.

Sidonio, whose success as a strongman put him on the Weet-Bix box twice, is humbled by the company he keeps as co-author on an astrophysics scientific paper. But he believes there is a role for backyard astronomers to play in peeling back the mysteries of the universe.

“I’m just a little amateur who happened to get lucky, and was able to provide a bit of information so we could discover a little bit more about the universe, so that is pretty cool.”

He says the scientific community is now realising there are many amateur telescopes out there, and “they’re scanning the universe all the time, and every now and then, they see things”.

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