Washington: So called ‘citizen citizens’ have discovered two new potential planets that were previously shunned as non-promising candidates by NASA, astronomers at Yale University have announced.
Since the online citizen science project Planet Hunters launched last December, 40,000 web users from around the world have been helping professional astronomers analyze the light from 150,000 stars.
Users analyse real scientific data collected by NASA’s Kepler mission, which has been searching for planets beyond our own solar system — in the hopes of discovering Earth-like planets orbiting around them.
“This is the first time that the public has used data from a NASA space mission to detect possible planets orbiting other stars,” said Yale astronomer and exoplanet expert Debra Fischer, who helped launch the Planet Hunters project.
“I think there’s a 95 percent chance or greater that these are bona fide planets,” Fischer said.
The Kepler team has already announced the discovery of 1200 exoplanet candidates and will follow up on the highest potential ones.
However, the team had discarded the two found by Planet Hunters users for various technical reasons that led them to believe they weren’t promising candidates.
“These three candidates might have gone undetected without Planet Hunters and its citizen scientists,” said Meg Schwamb, a Yale researcher and Planet Hunters co-founder.
The study will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.