January 16, 2012
Volunteers Asked To Help Look For Earth-Like Planets
Volunteers are being asked to join in the hunt in looking for nearby planets that could support life.
Volunteers can visit the Planet Hunters website to see time-lapsed images of 150,000 stars that were taken by the Kepler space telescope.
The members of the public will be taught signs that indicate the presence of a planet and how to alert experts if they spot them.
"We know that people will find planets that are missed by the computer," Chris Lintott from Oxford University told BBC. "When humans have looked at data, we know they find planets that computers can't."
The Kepler space telescope has been searching a part of space filled with stars similar to our Sun since it launched in 2009.
Recently, the telescope found a discovery Kepler 22b of a planet that is close in size and temperature to Earth.
Any volunteer who spots a potential planet could be credited with the discovery, and their name would appear in any subsequent scientific paper about the discovery.
So far, the Kepler has found 2,326 candidate planets that could possibly sustain alien life. Among them, 207 are Earth-sized planets, 10 of which are in the "habitable zone" where liquid water can exist.
Image Caption: This artist's conception illustrates Kepler-22b, a planet known to comfortably circle in the habitable zone of a sun-like star. Image Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
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