You are probably never going to set foot in space, but that doesn’t mean you cannot explore worlds beyond our own. And you can do so with NASA’s latest open innovation project – Backyard Worlds: Planet 9.
This fascinating endeavor is calling on citizens around the world to help scientists search the outer fringes of our Solar System to identify brown dwarfs, low-mass stars and perhaps even the hypothesized ninth planet.
As far as scientists know, there are eight planets orbiting our Sun, but there could be more waiting to be discovered. This is where you can come in. To hunt for celestial objects participants will be presented with short videos, consisting of infrared images captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope. If they notice something of interest, they can mark its location. If there is nothing there, they move onto the next four-frame clip.
“It’s hard to believe, but our solar neighborhood is still unexplored territory,” commented Jackie Faherty, a senior scientist in the American Museum of Natural History’s (AMNH) Department of Astrophysics. “There are cold worlds hiding just a short distance from the Sun, and Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a platform for bringing citizen scientists into the search party.”
People are Better than Algorithms
Although imaging processing software can do the job, the team behind the project say that humans are much better at spotting genuine objects of interest in the busy images. And there are far too many of them for the scientists to handle on their own!
For more information, and to sign up to the open innovation quest, click here.