NASA Is Inviting Public To Search For Possible Undiscovered Worlds
Feb 18, 2017, 00:38
Scientists have long believed there to be a ninth planet in our solar system, due to some theories that involve science and numbers and gravitational pulls.
The search also may discover more distant objects like brown dwarfs, sometimes called failed stars, in nearby interstellar space.
The Backyard World: Planet 9 project aims to find not only hypothesized Planet 9, but also other celestial bodies now hidden throughout space. During those two years, WISE completed a full survey of the night sky in infrared, and that data is now available on Backyard Worlds to comb over.
Infrared images from WISE cover the entire sky about six times over, allowing researchers to search for faint, glowing objects.
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. "By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these odd rogue worlds".
"If it exists, Planet 9 could be large - maybe 10 times the mass of Earth but orbiting far out beyond the Kuiper Belt", said astronomer Adam Schneider from Arizona State University, who's part of a new citizen science project to hunt down the planet. According to NASA, this is similar to the technique Clyde Tombaugh used to find Pluto in 1930. While planets beyond Neptune have been postulated for decades, the evidence for this one lies in the odd orbits of several large snowballs that also exist in the region called the Kuiper Belt.
"There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored", said lead researcher Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
So the best hope for discovering these worlds is to systematically scan infrared images of the sky, searching for objects that move.
"There are too many images for us to search through ourselves", NASA said in a statement.
Alternately, the undiscovered object could be a brown dwarf, a sub-stellar object more massive than gas giants, that emits infrared radiation. NASA aims to pinpoint real moving celestial objects which will later be discussed in an online bulletin board. Professional astronomers will later follow-up on the tagged objects and use their expertise to see if a new discovery was made.
"Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light", Kuchner said.
The discovery of a ninth planet in our solar system or a new nearest neighbor to the Sun would mark a major event in the history of astronomy. But, the recent project would help them find new planets and stars around our solar system. "On the other hand, WISE data is a proven source of new ultra cool brown dwarfs, sometimes called rogue planets".
The Backyard Worlds search works similarly, but by electronically serving up flipbooks of WISE images taken at different times.
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