NASA Wants You To Find Planet 9

UC Berkeley, NASA looking for citizen scientists to help find Planet 9

NASA-funded website lets public search for new nearby worlds

They are asking for your help in the search, using a new citizen-science website called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. "But an identical object could also be floating freely in space, unattached to any star, and we'd call it a brown dwarf".

What Backyard Worlds has done is pool months of infrared images of the sky.

WISE took the image covering a large area of the sky that helped astronomers detect faint stars that shift their position from time to time.

'There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored, ' said lead researcher Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a collaboration between NASA, UC Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Zooniverse, a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop and manage citizen science projects on the internet. Clyde Tombaugh used a special machine that systematically switched images on glass astronomical plates back and forth, looking for any objects in the night sky that "moved" between the images.

"Backyard World: Planet 9" is not only about finding the mysterious planet but also about identifying the stars located outside our solar system. Though the mission is no longer active, WISE provided some of the most comprehensive images of the sky that we have, making it an ideal "map". That's the nickname for a possible planet larger than Earth that may be just past Pluto.

Planet 9 could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth and an orbit about 20 times farther from the sun, on average, than Neptune, NASA said.

Video courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History. Meisner thinks it's more likely that volunteers will find brown dwarfs in the solar neighborhood. If Planet 9 is out there, it's gotta be somewhere in these flip books-probably looking a little blueish.

Previously known brown dwarf WISE 0855-0714 is seen here in this Backyard World flipbook as a moving orange dot at upper left. He hopes that the Backyard Worlds search will turn up a new nearest neighbor to our sun. A postdoctoral researcher in ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, Schneider is particularly interested in studying objects smaller than fully fledged stars and ranging down in size to planets. Moving objects flagged by participants will be prioritized by the science team for later follow-up observations by professional astronomers.

In any resulting discoveries, participants will have shared credit.

'By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these unusual rogue worlds'.

Scientists are crossing their fingers that someone can confirm the existence of "Planet 9."

Meisner said WISE is uniquely suited for discovering extremely cold brown dwarfs, which can be invisible to the biggest ground-based telescopes despite being very close.

However, if a brown dwarf is orbiting a star and has a mass that is five times the mass of Jupiter, it would be a star. "By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these unusual rogue worlds".

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