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NASA Invites You to Join the Search for Nearby Worlds, Undiscovered Planets

Feb 17, 2017 01:28 PM EST
Partial Solar Eclipse Over Spain
NASA is looking for citizen scientists to help experts identify undiscovered worlds. The public can help by manually searching for dwarf planets in the images taken by NASA's WISE telescope.
(Photo : Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Anyone can join NASA's search for exoplanets as the agency invites the public to help them find undiscovered worlds. For many, this is the closest they can get to space, so might as well dive in the opportunity presented.

A NASA-funded program is asking for the public's help to manually analyze photographs of space to spot exoplanets. Experts believe that human eyeballs can do what smart algorithms cannot, and it may help the agency discover interesting bodies that could potentially cater to life.

The project is called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the objective of the program is to gather the help of the public to aid scientists in identifying objects near the Solar System. Although some computer programs are specifically designed to do the job, the movement of bodies in the sky made it more difficult for algorithms to spot dwarf planets, according to Engadget.

"By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these strange rogue worlds," Jackie Faherty, a member of the Backyard Worlds team said in a statement.

This is where manual scrutiny comes into play. The human eye can spot obvious objects while using computer algorithms are bugged since "moving objects can easily get lost in crowded fields of stars," Marc Kuchner of Backyard Worlds said in a blog post.

Those who are interested will analyze infrared images obtained by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope. The citizen scientist can then mark the location of the object on the website if they spotted something that appears to be a dwarf planet or an exoplanet.

Experts are banking on the program to help scientists discover Planet 9, an object located beyond Neptune that is believed to be affecting the Earth's gravitational pull. Anyone interested in becoming citizen scientists must head to the Backyard Worlds website to start learning how to spot exoplanets by clicking the classify button.

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