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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.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      If you have an alien world under your feet, perhaps you should get out more...

    • by migla ( 1099771 )

      >It's just under me here.

      Is this part of some I-had-your-mother and your-momma-is-so-fat joke?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I managed to try it before it was slashdotted.

      The interface is clumsy, it takes a lot of time to zoom in and zoom out, it's sluggish on Linux, I didn't manage to find the zoom out button (although the hints stated that there is one), there is no option to simply zoom in on a specific region and I have to drag the things at the bottom manually, which makes it quite uncomfortable and discourages me to look at more planets. The interface needs to be fast and convenient if they want me to look at more than one

      • What I don't get is why all this money is being spent to look for some planet we will never ever reach in the far side of Alpha who the fuck knowswheresville, when there are plenty of things we could be doing closer to home that doesn't have enough funding like...ohh I don't know...looking for the big ugly rocks that can KILL US ALL very very dead if they hit? Or detecting and cataloging which big ugly rocks have resources we could use, along with testing ways we could snatch said resources to help with our

        • by SETIGuy ( 33768 )
          How much money do you think this code? I don't think "all this money" really applies when it's a tiny fraction of the money we spend on corn genomics or god forbid, pointless and unwinnable wars.
    • by unitron ( 5733 )

      That was my first thought, that a worldwide search would have returned a maximum of one result.

  • Have tried the first and second link (trying to get to, and the link in the article, but get an error message from Chrome about too many redirects (error 310, I would copy the message here but can't seem to paste into the slashdot text box).

    Is anyone else getting this problem?

    • its called the slashdot effect.
      • Now I can see the effect of, well, the slashdot effect (i.e. website unavailable), but before (just after the article was posted) it was complaining of a redirect loop. Very odd.

        The video is interesting, it gave a brief overview of the site (I think, I'll have to try to view the actual site later). They did mention on the video that they had underestimated initial interest in the site a few years back and broke one of their servers, so I would have thought they'd be a little bit more prepared for a slashd
  • by lxs ( 131946 )

    Can I keep it?

    • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @06:12PM (#34602626)

      They're very generous about it: As soon as you plant a flag, it's yours.

    • by migla ( 1099771 )

      >Can I keep it?

      Sure, but also remember that possession is nine tenths of the law.

    • I heard a story of someone trying to claim ownership of the Sun to try and charge everyone one on Earth for using it. Lawyers told her she could have a legal claim so long as she had lived there for three years.
      • lol, that's a great joke. Wait, you were joking right?

        Back on topic... I tried this thing a while back and it doesn't really do any good if people aren't experienced in the matter. Sure, they train you very briefly on what this and that may be but in reality, you'll not only get a bunch of people unable to properly identify things (and the human aspect for the professionals are still there), but you'll also get trolls. I would rather put my trust in an automated system designed by NASA and I do believe
        • lol, that's a great joke. Wait, you were joking right?

          I think it was at the end of a recent episode of QI (UK quiz show), usually accurate although this would have been a humorous story they usually end the show with, so it's hard to tell if they were making it up or not.

          Back on topic... I tried this thing a while back and it doesn't really do any good if people aren't experienced in the matter. Sure, they train you very briefly on what this and that may be but in reality, you'll not only get a bunch of people unable to properly identify things (and the human aspect for the professionals are still there), but you'll also get trolls. I would rather put my trust in an automated system designed by NASA and I do believe their project is doing well with that as it is. Will it be 2016 before they are done scanning the parts that they wanted to scan? Well, either way, machines make better computations with brightness than humans can these days and can do it at an insanely fast speed.

          In the video in the msnbc article they mentioned how the human brains capacity at pattern matching is better than using lots of computers. Plus I would assume that they have a professional look at areas that have been flagged up by lots of people. If there is something there, success and the

  • I wonder if user participation would significantly increase if there was a Facebook app for sites similar to Planet Hunters and Galaxy Zoo. Most people probably aren't particularly interested in helping in the hunt for planets or classification of galaxies. Maybe if it got turned into a Facebook app with achievements and the likes, people would be more inclined to participate.

    Could PH and GZ be a viable method of implementing a CAPTCHA? Help to classify galaxies or search for exoplanets in order to
  • Cumbersome interface (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Saturday December 18, 2010 @06:20PM (#34602666) Journal
    I tried to help out and gave up after the first data set due to the poor user interface.

    The basic idea of the project is to identify spikes in the dataset. To do that you, click on a plus sign to indicate you've found a spike, drag on a box that appears in mid screen to wherever your spike is and then try to position the box on the spike. I don't know why, but dragging was slightly laggy and so you feel somewhat like a drunk trying to place the box where you want it. Spent more time trying to position the boxes than it took to id spikes.

    Once you've positioned the box, if you want to narrow or widen the box, you're stuck with a Macintosh window resize mechanism that only lets you adjust from the lower right. Resizing the window moves the dot you've just positioned which puts you back in drunken sailor drag mode.

    A simpler interface would just track where you click and place the boxes accordingly along with a 'keep the center dot in place whilst adjusting the box boundaries from any edge" resize mechanism. Maybe that'l be in Planet Hunter V2.0 .

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Mod Parent Up . . .
      the interface is like Skiing in knee-deep Elmers Glue . . .
      and every other button is a spam link to the forum . . .
      adding yet another spinning circle to a task makes it worse, never better.

    • Please e-mail the people in charge of the Planet Hunters people with everything you just wrote. I'm not involved with this project, but I am in the collaboration that supplies the data for the Supernova Zoo. I don't work much with that part of the project (I use the same data for stellar work), but for them SN Zoo is a crucial part of the discovery pipeline. Anything we can do to help people help us is something that would definitely be considered (and probably implemented if we have the resources), and I'm

      • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
        Do they really rely on that ? I know they check for coherent answers, but the training they give is so poor that I don't expect them to get any meaningful results. How much points ina spike for it to be significant ? Is it normal to see high frequency oscillations ? Should we try to spot spikes even when the data is very noisy ?

        Also, the example they give is very obvious. I am sure I could easily write a software to do as well very quickly (find a significant deviation from average that appear locally on
    • by dmomo ( 256005 )

      I would have been able to contribute more if I didn't have to click "no" to "would you like to discuss this star"? every time i wanted to see a new image.

    • The admins are aware of the feedback from what I've seen. The interface works much better if you use Chrome, but I agree, it needs tweaking. Like most of the projects, though, there are a group of people behind it who will continue to tweak based on user feedback. It's an iterative process, and personally I'm keen to throw positive support behind something that I think is a great idea and brings cutting edge datasets to the rest of us. I'm not affiliated with these guys in any way, just thing they deser
  • Astronomers have been looking for alien worlds for more than 15 years, and now you too can join the search.

    Yes, and I also could have joined a world-wide search for extra-terrestial life back in 1999 when SETI@Home [] was launched... (I realize the goal and approach of this planet project is different)

  • 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.
  • In the constellation of Cygnus,
    There lurks a mysterious, invisible force
    The Black Hole
    Of Cygnus X-1

    Six Stars of the Northern Cross
    In mourning for their sister's loss
    In a final flash of glory
    Nevermore to grace the night...
  • Just download the latest version of LOIC and join the fun.

  • The interface sucks, and it feels more like something that belongs on a web developer's demo site than anything else.

    I sure hope my tax dollars are not paying for this. If they are, I have been suckered.

  • So how does this relate/compare to BOINC []...? I gather one doesn't want to run both of them simultaneously...

  • It seems like there's a whole lot they could do with filters, spectrum analysis, etc. Some of those tools might be useful to provide to their users.

    Heck, you could probably train a classifier to pick up on a lot of this stuff (although maybe they're planning on using the results of this experiment as training samples for just such a classifier).

  • ... but if you have some spare computing power, PLEASE consider donating it to something that can help those of us who live on earth, like Folding@Home []

  • I have RPI's Milkyway@home as my desktop screensaver. Maybe they can do something similar? I would gladly participate my CPU time if they can find an automated way to look for these planets.
  • When your site doesn’t support eh second most popular browser and does support the least programmer friendly one (safari) I have to pass purely on principal. Personally I use multiple browsers, but this is obviously a political statement on the projects part, not a technical limitation. If they get off of the horse and slip into reality I may reconsider.
  • A worldwide planet search? Seems like everyone would find it at about the same time.
    "Hey! Here it is right here! It's almost like we were standing on it!"
  • "Join a planetwide world search" would also work. :)

  • I used to be a SETI At Home enthusiast. When it first came out, it was really cool, seeing all those flashy graphics as it worked. I even turned off auto-sleep on my Mac just so it could work day in and day out on the thing. Then they pulled it, and replaced the app with some bastardized Linux-ized piece of crap that was anything but simple to install & use. (Whoever "they" are.) I haven't looked into this planet-hunter app yet, but I sure hope it's more like the original SETI than what is available now
  • shouldn't it be "universe" wide search? I know, doesn't have the same ring to it... but still..

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI