The cool thing about it, you won't have to leave the comfort of your living room.
NASA has launched a new website that will allow anyone to join the search for alien worlds. The flipbooks were compiled during a mission by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The mission was renamed the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE).
NASA has complied a "flipbook" of short animations that show sky scans taken over several years. Though the mission is no longer active, WISE provided some of the most comprehensive images of the sky that we have, making it an ideal "map". Moving objects flagged by participants will be prioritized by the science team for later follow-up observations by professional astronomers. There's more and more evidence it exists, but so far, the evidence has been pretty indirect.
Instead of finding the mysterious Planet Nine, it's entirely possible the armchair astronomers could spot traces of brown dwarfs, odd low-mass projects that emit very little light, but glow with infrared radiation.
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.
And, users may be able to spot more distant objects, like brown dwarfs - also known as failed stars.
"It's nearly like having six hands on a clock all moving at different rates, and when you happen to look up, they're all in exactly the same place", Brown said in a statement in January 2016. WISE detects infrared light, the kind of light emitted by objects at room temperature, like planets and brown dwarfs.
NASA is inviting the public to help search for possible undiscovered worlds in the outer reaches of our solar system and in neighboring interstellar space.
A previously cataloged brown dwarf named WISE 0855?0714 shows up as a moving orange dot (upper left) in this loop of WISE images spanning five years.
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.
Because of this, Meisner agreed when NASA scientist Mark Kuchner suggested asking the public to eyeball the WISE images. The space agency believes releasing the images to the public will help narrow down the search for Planet Nine. Or it could be a nearby brown dwarf star, which would be another exciting discovery. Pluto was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930.
In any resulting discoveries, participants will have shared credit.
Meisner, who specializes in creating high-resolution maps of the universe, is also now working on the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, a project at Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory that seeks to learn how mysterious dark energy affects the expansion of the universe.