There’s another update in the search for Planet Nine, and this time with a bit of a twist! We’ve talked about Planet Nine several times here, from Cal Tech’s initial announcement back in January 2016, to Parisian follow-up studies, and the planet’s potential stolen origins. It’s been several months since an update, but that doesn’t mean astronomers haven’t been hard at work searching for this distant planet. And now, they’re asking for your help!
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Australian National University (ANU) announced the launch of a citizen science project, using Zooniverse, to help find Planet Nine. Now anyone with access to the Internet can search for this possible ninth planet in our solar system. You could be part of this groundbreaking discovery! “We have the potential to find a new planet in our solar system that no human has ever seen in our two-million-year history,” said Brad Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
What’s involved if you join the search committee? Lots of careful image scanning, that’s what! This project allows citizens to peruse hundreds of thousands of images taken with the ANU SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring. “It’s actually not that complicated to find Planet 9. It really is spot the difference. Then you just click on the image, mark what is different and we'll take care of the rest,” Tucker said.
In addition to helping find this mysterious planet, you may also help astronomers find other objects in the Solar System, such as asteroids, comets, or dwarf planets. Finding one of these smaller objects may not seem as exciting as a bona fide planet, but it does come with its perks. According to Tucker, “If you find an asteroid or dwarf planet, you can’t actually name it after yourself. But you could name it after your wife, brother or sister. We need to follow all of the rules set by the International Astronomical Union.”
Another exciting aspect of this project is that it will aid in the search of the Southern Hemisphere sky, which is relatively unexplored, compared to the Northern Hemisphere. SkyMapper is the only telescope in the world that will map the entire southern sky, taking images of a region of the sky thirty times larger than the full Moon every twenty seconds. “Whatever is hiding there that you can’t see from the north, we will find it,” said Chris Wolf, co-researcher and head of SkyMapper.
Excited to join the team? Follow this link to start today!