NASA would like you to please find this planet

Pablo Tucker
February 17, 2017

The cool thing about it, you won't have to leave the comfort of your living room.

As per a report by CNN, the search for the new ninth planet is on and people from all ages, ranging from a Kindergartner to a 95-year-old, can participate in their new project to help find the not-yet-discovered celestial body.

The project asks science lovers to trawl through brief videos made from images captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) to see if there are any traces of Planet Nine.

WISE, which stands for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, was launched in late 2009 and has mapped the entire sky several times during the past seven years.

"Backyard Worlds: Planet 9" could even lead to the discovery of a super-Earth that may (or may not) be hidden on the solar system's far frontier. A recent image of Neptune taken by WISE shows a fade object behind that might be a distant planet around the sun.


"Automated searches don't work well in some regions of the sky, like the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, because there are too many stars, which confuses the search algorithm", said Meisner, who last month published the results of an automated survey of 5 percent of the WISE data, which revealed no new objects.

"But with your powerful human eyes, you can help us recognize real objects of interest that move among these artifacts". While there's no shortage of ideas about what Planet 9 could look like-or what it may have experienced throughout its life-so far, no one has been able to spot this elusive world. If Planet 9 exists and is as bright as some predict, it could show up in WISE data.

The NASA funded website does more than just look for missing planets, however; it uses citizen scientists to help unravel the mystery's of the universe.

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

Since Pluto was infamously demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, some astronomers have turned their attention to finding the true Planet 9, a hypothetical, Neptune-sized world that orbits the Sun at least a few hundred times further out than Earth. And so, astronomers decided they would bring in a little help: You. WISE detects infrared light, the kind of light emitted by objects at room temperature, like planets and brown dwarfs.


The organizers of "Backyard Worlds" are counting on that human factor.

"Brown dwarfs form like stars but evolve like planets, and the coldest ones are much like Jupiter", said team member Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History in NY. While parts of this search can be done by computers, machines are often overwhelmed by image artifacts, especially in crowded parts of the sky.

"We've pre-processed the WISE data we're presenting to citizen scientists in such a way that even the faintest moving objects can be detected, giving us an advantage over all previous searches", Meisner said. Pluto was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. In fact, within the population of brown dwarfs, there exist the coldest known brown dwarfs known as "Y dwarfs". The space telescope delivered the most comprehensive views of the world beyond Neptune's orbit, and NASA compiled them all into "flipbook" movies that participants can scan. Moving objects flagged by participants will be prioritized by the science team for follow-up observations by professional astronomers.

"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", he added.

The project is a collaboration involving NASA, the University of California at Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Zooniverse.


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