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Surveillance of the police variety is strictly for professionals. But humble backyard stargazers have carried out a cosmic stakeout on an unpredictable star system, SS Cygni, which periodically explodes. The result is a measurement of its distance from Earth that bests one made by NASA’s Hubble telescope – and shores up the leading mechanism for the process that lights up the most common type of black hole.

“Because there are people all over the world we get better coverage in time than if we just focus on observations from one location,” says astronomer Gregory Sivakoff of the University of Alberta in Canada, who called on the hobbyists for assistance. “Professionals just can’t monitor objects over long periods of time when competition for time on large instruments is fierce, so citizen astronomers are crucial when it comes to monitoring the transient universe”.

The mearurements of the amateur astronomers resulted in a corrected distance of 370 light years from Earth, instead of the 500 light years measured by Hubble telescope! [1]

If “everyday” amateurs can fix the mearurements of the greatest telescope astronomy has by a factor of almost 50%, then God save Astronomy!