Science

NASA Announces the First Multi-Planet System Discovered Entirely Through Crowdsourcing

NASA Announces the First Multi-Planet System Discovered Entirely Through Crowdsourcing”

Originally thought to be a four-planet system, it has since been upgraded to a five-planet system.

In a first for citizen science, a team of amateur astronomers-comprising thousands of volunteers-has discovered an entire planetary system, BBC News reports.

Since the discovery of four planets in this system was announced previous year, Dr Christiansen has been working to shed further light on this distant planetary neighbourhood, dubbed K2-138. The planets, all rocky, range in size from 1.6 to 3.3 times the radius of Earth, qualifying them as super-Earths.

The alien worlds, all orbiting a Sun-like star located within the constellation Aquarius, are considered super- Earths, sizing in at two to three times larger than our own planet, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA said.

It's called K2-138, where "K2" signifies that it was discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope during its K2 mission - an exoplanet-hunting mission that's been ongoing for the past three years. Kepler works by measuring the brightness of stars. Known as the C12 dataset, this represents a disgusting amount of data for scientists to sift through. Using a platform called Zooniverse, citizen scientists sifted through Kepler's data. But it was a feature on the ABC Australia television series Stargazing Live that ultimately yielded the most new data from citizens. Audience members were encouraged to participate by parsing through the data in search of candidate exoplanets.

"People anywhere can log on and learn what real signals from exoplanets look like, and then look through actual data collected from the Kepler telescope to vote on whether or not to classify a given signal as a transit, or just noise", said Christiansen in a Caltech news release.

If at least 10 users looked at any particular curve, and at least nine of them (90 percent) indicated a possible transit, Christiansen and Crossfield would analyze that specific signal further. "Each planet is more likely to be the size of its neighbor than a size drawn at random from the distribution of observed planet sizes", the paper said.

"What's exciting is that we found this unusual system with the help of the general public". "So, we made a decision to look for a multi-planet system because it's very hard to get an accidental false signal of several planets". When the terrestrial planets were still forming, Jupiter and Saturn scattered the protoplanets and increased the number of collisions among them. The results can also be used to make predictions about other additional planets in future exoplanet discoveries and may even help us find potential habitable worlds, Weiss explained.

Sorting through the upvoted, crowdsourced data, Christiansen eventually found a star with four planets orbiting it. Christainsen and the Expoplanet Explorers had stumbled upon the first system of exo-planets that was discovered entirely by crowdsourcing.

Yay, citizen scientists! More of this, please.

The collected findings have now been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.



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