Users analyze real scientific data collected by NASA's Kepler mission, which has been searching for planets beyond our own solar system — called exoplanets — since its launch in March 2009.
Now astronomers at Yale University have announced the discovery of the first two potential exoplanets discovered by Planet Hunters users in a new study to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
"This is the first time that the public has used data from a NASA space mission to detect possible planets orbiting other stars," said Yale astronomer and exoplanet expert Debra Fischer, who helped launch the Planet Hunters project.
The candidate planets orbit their host stars with periods ranging from 10 to 50 days – much shorter than the 365 days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun – and have radii that range in size from two-and-a-half to eight times Earth's radius. Despite those differences, one of the two candidates could be a rocky planet similar to the size of the Earth (as opposed to a giant gas planet like Jupiter), although they aren't in the so-called "habitable zone" where liquid water, and therefore life as we know it, could exist.
Next, the Planet Hunters team— a collaboration between astronomers at Yale, the University of Oxford and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago— used the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to analyze the host stars. "I think there's a 95 percent chance or greater that these are bona fide planets," Fischer said.
The Kepler team has already announced the discovery of 1200 exoplanet candidates and will follow up on the highest potential ones with further analysis, but they had discarded the two found by Planet Hunters users for various technical reasons that led them to believe they weren't promising candidates.
"These three candidates might have gone undetected without Planet Hunters and its citizen scientists," said Meg Schwamb, a Yale researcher and Planet Hunters co-founder. "Obviously Planet Hunters doesn't replace the analysis being done by the Kepler team. But it has proven itself to be a valuable tool in the search for other worlds."Users found the two candidates in the first month of Planet Hunters operations using data the Kepler mission made publicly available. The Planet Hunters team sent the top 10 candidates found by the citizen scientists to the Kepler team, who analyzed the data and determined that two of the 10 met their criteria for being classified as planet candidates. The two candidates were flagged as potential planets by several dozen different Planet Hunters users, as the same data are analyzed by more than one user.
Planet Hunters users are now sifting through the next 90 days of Kepler data in the hopes of adding to the count. "This is what we found after just a preliminary glance through the first round of Kepler data," Fischer said. "There's no doubt that, with each new round of data, there will be more discoveries to come."
Learn more about Planet Hunters at www.planethunters.org
Watch a video of Planet Hunters co-founders Debra Fischer and Kevin Schawinski explaining the project at http://www.youtube.com/user/YaleUniversity#p/search/0/18NCx-iBHBQ
Other authors of the paper include Kevin Schawinski, John Brewer, Matt Giguere, Julien Spronck, Michele Beleu, Zak Kaplan, Nick vanNispen and Charlie Sharzer (Yale University); Chris Lintott and Arfon Smith (University of Oxford and Adler Planetarium); Stuart Lynn and Robert Simpson (University of Oxford); Thibault Sartori (Yale University and Ecole normale superieure); Natalie Batalha (San Jose State University); Jason Rowe, Steve Bryson and Peter Tenenbaum (NASA Ames Research Center); Jon Jenkins (SETI Institute/NASA Ames Research Center); Andrej Prsa (Villanova University); Justin Crepp, John Johnson and Tim Morton (California Institute of Technology); and Andrew Howard (University of California, Berkeley).
Citation: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2011)
Karen N. Peart | EurekAlert!
Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark
Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine
23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.01.2017 | Process Engineering