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NASA Space Science

Join a Worldwide Planet Search 54

An anonymous reader writes "Astronomers have been looking for alien worlds for more than 15 years, and now you too can join the search. The Planet Hunters project is the latest citizen-science campaign organized by the crew at Zooniverse. Hundreds of thousands of computer users are already helping Zooniverse classify galaxies through Galaxy Zoo, and analyze lunar craters through Moon Zoo. This new project aims to recruit users to check data gathered by NASA's Kepler mission, which is expected to detect hundreds of Earthlike planets in a region of the constellation Cygnus. Kepler's science team detects planets by looking for the slight dimming in a star's light that's caused when a planetary disk passing over. By making precise measurements of that periodic dimming, astronomers can figure out how big the planet is, then follow up with other types of observations to confirm its existence and estimate its mass. More than 500 planets have been detected beyond our solar system, and Kepler is just getting started."
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Join a Worldwide Planet Search

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  • Found it! (Score:4, Informative)

    by johnw ( 3725 ) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @05:58PM (#34602564)

    It's just under me here.

  • Good fun (Score:3, Informative)

    by sam_v1.35b ( 1296319 ) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @06:35PM (#34602768) Homepage
    It's a lot of fun - have been playing with it for the last 24 hours - until it got slashdotted :( At the moment they've only got 35 days of data - that means you're only going to reliably spot planets with fast orbits of less than around 10 days. You've only got about a 10% chance of spotting a planet with a 365 day orbital period. Later they hope to increase this to 120 days as the Kepler mission releases more data. It's not only planet searching that's interesting - you're looking at the light curve of stars and you see all kinds of odd stuff, from stars that have really random brightness peturbations, to stars that have oddly regular variations. Then there are things like eclipsing binaries that create complex waveforms and then stuff that's hard for an amateur like me to make head of tail of. If you've ever enjoyed backyard astronomy, this is great and very addictive. There are some rough edges - it's a bit hard to get started as you feel you don't know what you're looking at at first, and the interface will need some improvements, but it's early days yet and they're already doing some great stuff and building on the back of other project like galaxy zoo, so I'm keen to keep at it for a bit.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas