Help NASA Find a Planet

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You can explore the solar system—and maybe even help scientists discover a new planet—thanks to Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, a new citizen-science tool developed by NASA in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History and other partners and released today.

“It’s hard to believe, but our solar neighborhood is still unexplored territory,” said Jackie Faherty, a senior scientist in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics and a collaborator on the project. “There are cold worlds hiding just a short distance from the Sun, and Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a platform for bringing citizen scientists into the search party.”

The project takes its name from its most sought after quarry: Planet 9, a possible ninth planet in our solar system, that has been predicted by researchers, but not yet discovered. You can learn more about Planet 9, and the search for it, in this video.

 


To help in the hunt for this new planet—as well other objects in deeper space—participants watch short videos like the one below. 

 

Animated gif that flips through 4 images of patches of night sky.

A video composed of multiple still images from one patch of sky taken since 2016.

Courtesy of NASA


These videos are assembled from images captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which has produced several full scans of the night sky since 2010, and show how patches of night sky have changed over the years.

Users are looking for objects that move within the images—movement that is difficult for computers to track, but clear to the human eye. So now, you can lend your human eye to astronomers—and potentially help to make a momentous discovery!