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Odd Jobs: Be A NASA Planet Hunter In Less Than 5 Minutes

Apr 16, 2016 04:25 AM EDT
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Can you imagine how it is like to explore the universe and help NASA find new signs of life outside our world? Being NASA's Planet Hunters is one of the oddest jobs on Earth. Currently, there's an organization recruiting volunteers to be involved as a citizen planet hunter, which anyone can do in the comforts of their home.

NASA has this project called PlanetQuest, specifically designed to look for exoplanets or new planets. One of the most prominent technologies used for the purpose of looking for other planets orbiting similar Earth-like stars is the Kepler telescope positioned 75 million miles away from Earth.

There's a group of seemingly special breed of individuals responsible for finding new planets and they're called Planet Hunters. They're not a league of superheroes but a group of people with super brains trained to detect even the smallest of movement concerning elements on the outer space.

One of them is astrophysicist Sara Seager, who has been searching for exoplanets for 20 years. Seager is currently a graduate student at Harvard and a professor at MIT. The astrophysicist's dream is to find a planet similar to Earth, which can potentially maintain human life. She is confident that discovering that specific planet will be her greatest achievement in this lifetime.

According to Seager, her odd job didn't receive much admiration before. "Since the planets were discovered indirectly, most people didn't believe that the discoveries were real. They'd say to me 'Why are you doing this? These aren't planets!'" Seager said in an interview with CNN. But today, more people are interested with life outside of Earth and even more people are interested to be part of the hunt for new planets.

Seager, however, said that extravagant as it may seem, being a planet hunter is no easy job. Elements in the outer space make the job harder. Also, the lights coming from other stars in the universe disrupt the process.

But as complex as planet hunting might seem, do you know that anyone can be a planet in as short as five minutes through a program launched by PlanetHunters.org?

The organization initiated the Zooniverse project or a "collection of web-based citizen science projects that use the efforts of volunteers to help researchers deal with the flood of data that confronts them."

Data collected by NASA's Kepler telescope were put into their system for volunteers to identify. Before you can start identifying and classifying exoplanets, volunteers need to pass a simple tutorial on how to identify planets on the web-based programs. In less than five minutes, the volunteer can start identifying new planets. The data collected from volunteers will be further studied by researchers. This will help them in terms of pace in identifying new planets with the help of citizen planet hunters.

Those who would want to know what it's like to be NASA's planet hunter, head down to Planet Hunter's website to start identifying exoplanets.

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