Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Help Scientists Discover Extrasolar Planets

The explorers of old dreamed of new, strange lands beyond the reach of ancient ships.  The explorers of yesteryear dreamed of overlooked lands, the territories which we knew of but remained blank on maps.  Both these types of explorers wondered about lands which they could not see but could visit if only they knew the way.

But today's explorers can dream about lands which we can see but cannot visit due to the great space between them.  I am talking about planets beyond our solar system.

When I was born there was no scientific consensus on whether or not there were planets beyond our solar system.  Many thought there were but no one could prove it.  Now extrasolar planets are scientific facts and there are new planets found every month.  I have repeatedly blogged about the new discoveries and wealth of information available on these planets.

Now the discoverers of extrasolar planets need your help in finding these worlds.  Planet Hunter, a joint venture by Yale University and Zooniverse, is allowing anyone to look over sceintific data for signs of extrasolar planets.  The user is shown light intensity from stars.  If the intensity drops dramatically it is possibly from a planet eclipsing the light.  The user, once they identify the drop in light intensity, can simply drag and drop a box around the data to call for further scientific review.

Crowd sourcing technology is allowing for any computer user to become a geographer (astronomy was once part of the classic science of geography).  Whether one is helping National Geographic look for Genghis Khan's lost tomb or finding alien worlds, this is a great time to help explore the universe.

No comments: