Imagine a whole new world. Or what about thousands of planets?
In the past 20 years, scientists have confirmed the existence of more than 5,000 worlds outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. As the search for habitable planets continues, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute and telescope maker Unistellar are asking for help from citizen scientists to find new exoplanets.
In the Unistellar Exoplanet Campaign, a network of amateur astronomers will use Unistellar eVscope or other telescopes to help confirm candidate exoplanets by NASA’s TESS spacecraft, which stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
Think of it as a planetary fact check. Unistellar calls the network members “exo planeteers.”
NASA’s TESS spacecraft discovers candidate exoplanets by searching for “blinking” stars. When a planet passes in front of its star, NASA’s TESS and Kepler spacecraft sees a dim light in front of the star, indicating the possibility of an exoplanet. More than 5,100 exoplanets have been confirmed using this method, but there are thousands more out there.
After TESS identifies a potential planet candidate, more work needs to be done before it can be “confirmed” among the number of exoplanets. Ground-based telescopes on Earth can be used to follow up to see if it was a planet that caused this drop in light or if the source could be another object, such as a dust cloud or a nearby binary star.
According to SETI, the citizen science program will focus on potential exoplanets that have some features similar to our gas giant planet Jupiter, known as exo-Jupiters.
Recently, 20 network astronomers helped confirm a TESS filter for exoplanets called TOI 1812.01, which is located more than 563 light-years from Earth.
“Observing exoplanets such as TOI 1812.01 as they transit in front of their host stars or transit them is a critical component to confirm their nature as real planets and ensure our ability to study these planetary systems in the future,” SETI Research Scientist Paul Dalba said in a statement. “The specific characteristics of this planet, namely its long orbit and long transit times, place it in a category where globally coordinated citizen sciences such as the Unistellar network can be very effective.”
New candidates for exoplanets will be added to the range Unistellar website here, where is there Instructions on how to monitor transit and share data with the network. Participants can use the Unistellar app to upload their monitoring data from anywhere in the world.
SETI and Unistellar say this is an opportunity for anyone to contribute to the search for exoplanets, even young students.
NASA currently has approximately 9,000 candidate exoplanets, which include thousands of multiple planetary systems. The growing field of exoplanets is challenging and exciting due to some These worlds have similar features to Earth. Follow-up observations by the James Webb Space Telescope or WFIRST can help confirm whether these worlds are likely to host life.
The space agency recently set out the audio for all the exoplanets they’ve found.
NASA selected the sounds for all 5,000 confirmed exoplanets, each representing musical notes played through decades of discovery.