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NASA Wants You To Find Planet 9

17 February 2017, 04:39 | Kevin Scott

In collaboration with other institutions, NASA launched Backyard World: Planet 9 website that enables ordinary people to help the space agency find hidden worlds in space. Though the mission is no longer active, WISE provided some of the most comprehensive images of the sky that we have, making it an ideal "map".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 aims to pinpoint real moving celestial objects which will later be discussed in an online bulletin board.

'Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light.

So, the best way to find them is through a systematic search of these moving objects. If Planet Nine-also known as Planet X-exists and is as bright as some predictions, it could show up in WISE data.

The project, Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, uses the millions of images NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) captured during its three-year mission, which ended in 2011.

In order to fit in with the data they have, this alien world - popularly called Planet Nine - would need to be roughly four time the size of Earth and ten times the mass.

Pluto used to be the ninth planet before its demotion to dwarf planet status 10 years ago. These "failed stars" are basically objects that are too big to be considered planets, but too small to be stars. But, the recent project would help them find new planets and stars around our solar system.

The organizers of "Backyard Worlds" are counting on that human factor. Last year, however, astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin found indirect evidence that actually suggests this world exists. The movies highlight objects that have gradually moved across the sky. And so, astronomers decided they would bring in a little help: You.

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Astronomers believe that the orbits of a number of bodies in the distant reaches of the solar system have been disrupted by the pull of an as yet unidentified planet. "But by looking in the infrared, WISE may have imaged objects we otherwise would have missed".

WISE images have already turned up hundreds of previously unknown brown dwarfs, including the sun's third- and fourth-closest known neighbors. But, WISE images can help scientists detect even the faintest stars.

NASA has compiled a "flipbook" of short animations showcasing the scans of the sky.

This will then be prioritized by the science team, so it can be further investigated by professional astronomers.

Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 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 will share credit for their discoveries in any scientific publications that results from the project.

In this case, people are better than computers at spotting and identifying objects, such as a planet, in the footage. It provides tools for marking any suspected planets, and when you're done, it gives you a new set of photos to look through.



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