Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

From the comfort of home, Web users may have found new planets

22.09.2011
Since the online citizen science project Planet Hunters launched last December, 40,000 web users from around the world have been helping professional astronomers analyze the light from 150,000 stars in the hopes of discovering Earth-like planets orbiting around them.

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.

"Scientists on the Kepler team obtained the data, but the public helped finance the project with their tax dollars," Fischer said. "It's only right that this data has been pushed back into the public domain, not just as scientifically digested results but in a form where the public can actively participate in the hunt. The space program is a national treasure—a monument to America's curiosity about the Universe. It is such an exciting time to be alive and to see these incredible discoveries being made."

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!
Further information:
http://www.yale.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective
14.12.2017 | The Optical Society

nachricht New ultra-thin diamond membrane is a radiobiologist's best friend
14.12.2017 | American Institute of Physics

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plasmonic biosensors enable development of new easy-to-use health tests

14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

New type of smart windows use liquid to switch from clear to reflective

14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

BigH1 -- The key histone for male fertility

14.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>