Everyone wants of piece of gamers! After bringing scientists closer to curing AIDS, we have more good news: two new planet candidates have been discovered thanks to gamers playing a browser-based game using the Kepler public archive data.
Planet Hunters is an online collection of public-release NASA Kepler data. You're presented with sample data representing stars likely to be orbited by a planet; the job is then to search the Kepler data repository for stars which match this pattern.
At the distance covered by the Kepler Mission, planets are too small to make out visually – scientists have to monitor the light levels of stars for signs of interference. Spotting these telltale patterns is something computers are rubbish at, and exactly the sort of thing humans do well – which bodes well for our escape plans when the planet's overrun by hostile machines whose only flaw is their subpar grasp of astronomy.
“In the first month after launch,” says the Planet Hunters crew, “users identified two new planet candidates which survived our checks for false-positives.” In other words, nobody's in a position to point a telescope up at the Bowser Nebula just yet, but the still-fledgling project has already got leads on two potential planets to add to the data. “The involvement of citizen scientists as part of Planet Hunters is therefore shown to be a valuable and reliable tool in exoplanet detection,” says the report. Those aren’t bad results from just a month of work and play.
Sep 28, 2011