How would you like to play your part in helping astronomers discovers planets outside our solar system? Well, now you can thanks to a new program by the folks at Zooniverse.
I’ll let Bad Astronomy Explain:
The idea is pretty cool: they have data from NASA’s orbiting Kepler Observatory, a telescope that is staring at one part of the sky and observing a hundred thousand stars all day and night. If a planet orbits a star — and its orbit lines up just right — the planet will pass directly in front of the star, blocking its light for a few hours.
That dip in light can be detected, revealing the presence of the planet!
With Planet Hunters, you’re presented with the data, and you look for those dips. Astronomers have programmed computers to look too, but the Zooniverse people think that humans can do better. It’s not a bad assumption; it’s the devil’s own work teaching a computer to sift through this kind of data. And there are lots and lots of people out there who can do this… and I’m guessing more than a few BABloggees are in that set.
I tried it out and it’s pretty easy – a lot of fun too.
So, maybe you can help find the next planet! Maybe it will be Earthlike!