Could YOU find a new planet in our solar system?
Melbourne, Mar 27: Amateur astronomers, take note! You can now help researchers discover 'Planet 9' - an elusive cosmic body believed to exist in our solar system, scientists say. The project to find 'Planet 9' will allow citizen scientists to use a website to search hundreds of thousands of images taken by the Australian National University SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring.
SkyMapper will take 36 images of each part of the southern sky, which is relatively unexplored, and identify changes occurring within the Universe, researchers said. "We have the potential to find a new planet in our Solar System that no human has ever seen in our two-million-year history," said Brad Tucker from ANU.
"Planet 9 is predicted to be a 'super earth', about 10 times the mass and up to four times the size of our planet. It's going to be cold and far away, and about 800 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. It's pretty mysterious," Tucker said.
Volunteers would be required to scan through the SkyMapper images online to look for difference and are expected to also find and identify other mystery objects in space, including asteroids, comets and dwarf planets such as Pluto, researchers said. "It's actually not that complicated to find Planet 9.
Spot the difference
It really is spot the difference. Then you just click on the image, mark what is different and we'll take care of the rest," Tucker said. Volunteers will also get a chance to name the asteroid or object found although not after themselves.
All images: Courtesy NASA. For representation only.
A mass about 10 times that of Earth
"Modern computers could not match the passion of millions of people. It will be through all our dedication that we can find Planet 9 and other things that move in space," Tucker said.
Planet 9 could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth and an orbit about 20 times farther from the sun, on average, than Neptune, NASA said. It may take between 10,000 and 20,000 Earth years to make one full orbit around the sun, NASA suspects.
Pluto used to be the ninth planet before its demotion to dwarf planet status 10 years ago. NASA said the search for Planet 9 is a 21st-century version of the technique astronomer Clyde Tombaugh used to find Pluto in 1930, a discovery made 87 years ago this week.
Let's go exploring!
The predicted object has been nicknamed ‘Planet Nine', but the actual naming rights of an object go to the person who actually discovers it. The name used during previous hunts for the long suspected giant, undiscovered object beyond Neptune is ‘Planet X'.