What is it about?
Arizona State University astronomer Adam Schneider and his colleagues are hunting for an elusive object lost in space between our Sun and the nearest stars. They are asking for your help in the search, using a new citizen-science website called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9.
The discovery of a ninth planet in our solar system or a new nearest neighbour to the Sun would mark a major event in the history of astronomy. Such objects could already be present within the vast WISE dataset, just waiting to be found.
What do you do?
So how do astronomers find such objects in space? That's where you can contribute using a website that uses images taken by NASA's WISE space telescope. Its high sensitivity to infrared light makes WISE uniquely suited for discovering Planet 9, if it exists.
But there's a snag: Images from WISE have captured nearly 750 million individual sources in the sky. The trick to finding these needles in haystacks of WISE data is to look for something in motion.
The Backyard Worlds search works by electronically serving up flipbooks of WISE images taken at different times. As each flipbook plays, objects in the field move or change appearance, making it easy for volunteer observers to flag suspicious objects for later follow-up.
Participants will share credit for their discoveries in any scientific publications that results from the project.