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A Whole New World? NASA Asks Public To Help Find Hidden Worlds In Space

Update Date: Feb 16, 2017 08:21 PM EST

Being an astronaut or an explorer is just some of the dreams people had when they were younger. Now, thanks to a recently launched website by NASA, the public can help the space agency find the hidden worlds in space.

A collaboration between NASA, UC Berkeley, Arizona State University, the American Museum of Natural History, the Space Telescope Science Institute and Zooniverse, an online platform for science projects, the Backyard World: Planet 9 project aims to have the public become citizen scientists who will help scientists assess images from the data collected from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.

Currently, there are eight planets in the Solar System. Pluto, once considered the ninth plane of the Solar System, is now relegated as the King of the Kuiper Belt. However, scientists still believe that somewhere in the far reaches of our space system, a ninth planet, dubbed Planet 9 or also known as Planet X exists.

The Backyard World: Planet 9 project aims to find not only hypothesized Planet 9, but also other celestial bodies currently hidden throughout space. In fact, due to recent discoveries and improvements in technology, scientists also believe that there is a hidden population of brown dwarfs throughout the Solar System.

Brown dwarfs are celestial bodies that are too small to be considered stars and are also too big to be considered planets. In fact, within the population of brown dwarfs, there exist the coldest known brown dwarfs known as "Y dwarfs". By finding these dwarfs, scientists will have a better understanding of the formation of both stars and planets.

In order to find these hidden worlds, the Backyard World: Planet 9 needs the help of citizen scientists to help them comb through millions of data collected from NASA's WISE. A systematic search is needed to find the moving objects, the planets or stars, in the images from WISE. Human eyes are the best to successfully find and identify these hidden celestial objects as image processing software often overlook them.

On the website, the citizen scientists are presented with a set of flipbooks or a collection of brief animations from a patch of space. People are then tasked to mark objects, either dipoles or movers, and the marked objects are examined by a team of scientists to authenticate the observations. If the citizen scientist has successfully identified a real brown dwarf or any genuine space objects, they will be credited with the discovery.

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