NASA Needs Your Help to Find Planet 9

Posted February 17, 2017

This now hypothetical Neptune-sized planet is orbiting about 19 billion miles away from the sun, and NASA wants your help finding it.

Automated searches for moving objects in the WISE data have already proven successful, but computerized searches are often overwhelmed by image artifacts - visual noise - especially in crowded parts of the sky.

The new website uses the data to search for unknown objects in and beyond our own solar system. "Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light". If an object looks like it's moving, it could be a planet. If Planet Nine-also known as Planet X-exists and is as bright as some predictions, it could show up in WISE data.

According to Brown and Batygin's calculations, Planet Nine would be as big as Neptune and 10 times bigger than Earth, but its distance would be up to a thousand times farther from the sun.

Astronomers have long considered the existence of unknown planets beyond Neptune and the dwarf planet Pluto, but there has been no evidence to support this, until a year ago.

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.

A new planet hasn't been discovered (excluding ex-planet Pluto) since Neptune in 1846.

The Backyard Worlds website makes all this easy.

But NASA has repeatedly said there is no evidence Nibiru exists. WISE detects infrared light, the kind of light emitted by objects at room temperature, like planets and brown dwarfs. Average, everyday folks have discovered things like supernovae, previously unseen craters on the Moon and Mars and even new planets orbiting a distant star.

The movies highlight objects that have gradually moved across the sky, and they need your help to figure out if any of them could be the mysterious Planet Nine - or anything else that's hiding between the edge of our Solar System and our next closest star. And so, astronomers decided they would bring in a little help: You. These include brightness spikes associated with star images and blurry blobs caused by light scattered inside WISE's instruments. The movies show the same patch of sky at different times, going back and forth like a flipbook.

This will then be prioritized by the science team, so it can be further investigated by professional astronomers. Participants will share credit for their discoveries in any scientific publications that results from the project.

Today, computers conduct similar analyses of images much more quickly to identify dwarf planets, asteroids and the failed stars known as brown dwarfs.

"Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has the potential to unlock once-in-a-century discoveries, and it's exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist", said team member Aaron Meisner, from the University of California, Berkeley.

The site 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.