NASA have made an announcement which will surely thrill amateur astronomers. The biggest space agency in the world is asking for the public’s help in pin-pointing a distant planet that they believe lies within this solar system. The researchers at NASA are almost certain that this solar system is home to nine planets (and the dwarf planet, Pluto) but they have yet to formally identify the elusive Planet 9.
NASA OPEN UP THEIR DATABASES IN THE SEARCH FOR PLANET 9
Astronomers working for the space agency have been led to believe that Planet 9 exists because of the peculiar orbits of distant objects that have been spotted beyond the planet Neptune. Based on these unusual orbits, the researchers believe that Planet 9 (sometimes referred to as Planet X) could have a mass ten times that of the planet Earth and that it probably has an incredibly long orbit period. It is estimated that it may take Planet 9 between 10,000 and 20,000 Earth years to make a full orbit of the Sun.
But despite their certainty that something is out there, NASA have still been unable to definitively identify the mysterious planet. In an attempt to find it once and for all, NASA has launched Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, a new website which will give civilian astronomers full access to footage captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. This footage depicts a huge number of objects moving across space at the edge of the solar system, so many in fact that NASA does not think they have enough personnel to examine them all using their researchers. As no computer program is more sophisticated than the human eye when it comes to detecting astronomical objects, NASA decided that the best solution to this problem was to crowdsource the project.
This project “has the potential to unlock once-in-a-century discoveries, and it’s exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist, “according to Aaron Meisner, a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley who has been analyzing the WISE images for some years. If a civilian astronomer is the one to locate the enigmatic Planet 9, NASA has promised that the professional astronomers who have worked on its identification will share full credit with them.