The discovery of a new planetoid has set off a bitter feud between American and Spanish scientists while raising questions about the ethics of Internet research.
The dispute began in July when Michael Brown, a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, discovered a new planetoid in the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt.
Days before announcing his discovery, however, a group of Spanish astronomers claimed the new planetoid.
American researchers said they learned that the Spanish scientists had discovered where Brown was aiming a Chilean telescope by using an Internet search engine.
"This is a wake-up call for scientists," Brown said.
Scientist Jose Luis Ortiz says he and his researchers did nothing wrong and the data found using the Google search engine should be considered public and thus free to use.
"If somebody uses Google to find publicly available information on the Internet and Google directs to a public Web page, that is perfectly legitimate," Ortiz wrote in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times that the newspaper cited Sunday.
The object at the center of the dispute, which is about 1,000 miles in diameter, had been photographed numerous times in the past, but no one had realized it was a planetoid.