In the depths of our solar system lies a ninth planet ten times the size of Earth – or so goes the theory.
Now astronomers at Arizona State University (ASU) want to prove it, and they need your help to do so.
A new website called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 invites citizen-scientists to examine images captured by NASA’s WISE telescope.
Launched in 2009, WISE has mapped the night sky many times, detecting infrared light from planets and brown dwarfs.
“This sensitivity to infrared light makes WISE uniquely suited for discovering Planet 9, if it exists,” an ASU spokesperson said in a release.
But there’s a catch. Nearly 750 million individual sources in the sky have been captured by WISE.
Planet 9 may be among them, but ASU needs participants to search through the WISE imagery to try to find it.
Adam Schneider, an astronomer at ASU, said humans have one trick that computers can’t yet match:
“People who join in the Backyard Worlds search bring a unique skill to the search: the human ability to recognize movement.”
Last summer, researchers at Warwick University predicted that if Planet 9 does is exist, it will ultimately cause chaos, rewriting the death of the solar system.
Astronomers have predicted that the planet could be found as soon as the end of next winter.
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Photograph of the Milky Way Galaxy captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Dated 2007.
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Astronaut Bruce McCandless II photographed at his maximum distance (320 ft) from the Space Shuttle Challenger during the first untethered EVA, made possible by his nitrogen jet propelled backpack (Manned Manuevering Unit or MMU) in 1984.
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An astronaut's bootprint leaves a mark on the lunar surface July 20, 1969 on the moon. The 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission is celebrated July 20, 1999.
Astronaut Charles Moss Duke, Jr. leaves a photograph of his family on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, 23rd April 1972.