NASA has launched a new website that will allow anyone to join the search for alien worlds. But, the recent project would help them find new planets and stars around our solar system. It's called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, and it uses images taken by NASA's WISE space telescope. These "failed stars" are basically objects that are too big to be considered planets, but too small to be stars.
Some of the search can be done using computers, but, machines get overwhelmed by image artifacts in crowded parts of the sky, such as brightness spikes and blurry blobs.
"It's exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist", added Meisner. These emit very little light at visible wavelengths, but instead glow dimly with infrared - heat - radiation. "But by looking in the infrared, WISE may have imaged objects we otherwise would have missed".
It's essentially a worldwide game of Where's Waldo, if Waldo was a planet and might not actually exist. Clyde Tombaugh used a similar, though less advanced, technique to discover Pluto in 1930.
The candidate that best fits the models is an elusive ninth planet that takes up to 20,000 years to orbit the Sun, and is 10 times more massive than Earth.
Video courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History. The icy world known as Planet Nine or Planet X is only theoretical for now, but its existence would explain some of the puzzles surrounding the weird orbits of some far-out objects.
He hopes that the Backyard Worlds search will turn up a new nearest neighbor to our sun.
"But with your powerful human eyes, you can help us recognize real objects of interest that move among these artifacts".
Participants will win a share of the credit in any scientific discoveries that the project brings to light.
The WISE telescope scanned the entire sky between 2010 and 2011, producing the most comprehensive survey at mid-infrared wavelengths now available.
Backyard Worlds is asking people to look through flipbooks of data to identify moving objects.
WISE, which stands for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, was launched in late 2009 and has mapped the entire sky several times during the past seven years.
A very blue Neptune-like planet, dubbed Planet 9, may be lurking dozens of times further from the sun than Pluto, as depicted in this artist's rendering.
In order to find these hidden worlds, the Backyard World: Planet 9 needs the help of citizen scientists to help them comb through millions of data collected from NASA's WISE.
The new website uses all of the WISE and NEOWISE data to search for unknown objects in and beyond our own solar system, including the putative Planet 9. If Planet 9 - also known as Planet X - is there and is as bright as some predictions, it could show up in the WISE movies taken in 2010 and 2011.
"Brown dwarfs form like stars but evolve like planets, and the coldest ones are much like Jupiter", team member Jackie Faherty, said in a statement. The space agency believes releasing the images to the public will help narrow down the search for Planet Nine. "By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these unusual rogue worlds".
Still, Meisner, Kuchner, and the rest of the team are ecstatic over the project.