Think You Can Find Planet 9? Check Out This Citizen-Science Project

UC Berkeley, NASA looking for citizen scientists to help find Planet 9

UC Berkeley, NASA looking for citizen scientists to help find Planet 9

Ever since Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, astronomers have been eager to find Planet 9 - an elusive world predicted to be floating somewhere around the edge of our solar system.

Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies a belt of cold, icy objects called the Kuiper Belt; beyond that is a sphere of similar objects called the Oort Cloud.

The Backyard World: Planet 9 project aims to find not only hypothesized Planet 9, but also other celestial bodies now hidden throughout space.

NASA thinks Planet 9 could be found in images captured by their Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, but there are a whole lot of those images.

The newest entry in the Zooniverse space-projects list is called Backyard Worlds: Find Planet 9. Though the mission is no longer active, WISE provided some of the most comprehensive images of the sky that we have, making it an ideal "map".

-NASA scientists are trying to find new planets. It could be twenty times farther from the sun than Neptune.

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The distant planet from earth is Neptune and the closest planet is Proxima Centuari that is not much explored yet, because it has less sunlight and the objects become fade due to sun's light, said Kuchner, the lead researcher and an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

WISE took the image covering a large area of the sky that helped astronomers detect faint stars that shift their position from time to time.

'Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has the potential to unlock once-in-a-century discoveries, and it's exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist, ' said team member Aaron Meisner, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. The lack of sunlight means that the objects present in this area can not reflect light and are thus very hard to find. Professional astronomers will later follow-up on the tagged objects and use their expertise to see if a new discovery was made. A faint spot seen moving through background stars might be a new and distant planet orbiting the sun or a nearby brown dwarf.

The program is called Backyard Worlds, and is a collaboration between NASA, UC Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Zooniverse, a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop and manage citizen science projects on the Internet.

Participants in the citizen scientist project are being asked to look for false positives, artifacts that look like real objects in the solar system, according to the Zooniverse website hosting Backyard Worlds. Such spots might be undiscovered planets or brown dwarfs, which are small failed stars. Using the combined power of the world's citizen scientists the people-powered platform hopes to enable research that would not normally be possible or practical.