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Online volunteers, including a woman from Belgium and a Scottish man, have helped astronomers at The Australian National University (ANU) find a star that exploded 970 million years ago, predating the dinosaurs' time on Earth. ANU has invited everyone with an interest in astronomy to join the University's search for exploding stars called supernovae, which scientists can use to measure the Universe and acceleration of its growth. Co-lead researcher Dr Brad Tucker said his team was able to confirm a previously unknown object was a real exploding star in just a day, thanks to the efficiency and dedication of volunteer supernovae hunters - more than 700 of them. "The supernova is about 970 million light years away, meaning that it exploded before the dinosaurs were even on the Earth," said Dr Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA). "This is the exact type of supernova we're looking for - type Ia supernova - to measure properties of and distances across the Universe." Among the amateur co-discoverers are Alan Craggs from Aberdeenshire in Scotland and Elisabeth Baeten from Belgium. Seven potential supernovae have been reported to the Transient Name Server. "We are tracking 18 other possible exploding stars," Dr Tucker said. Co-lead researcher Dr Anais Möller said the Ia supernova discovered through the ANU project had already been named. "Supernovae have boring names - it's called SN2017dxh," said Dr Möller from RSAA. "We are recognising volunteers by listing the first three people to find a previously unknown supernova in the discovery when we report it to the International Astronomical Union. "In the first 24 hours we had over 30,000 classifications. We've almost reached 40,000 classifications, with more than 1,300 images classified, since the launch of our project." Astrophysicists use supernovae, which are explosions as bright as 100 million billion billion billion lightning bolts, as light sources to measure how the Universe is growing and better understand dark energy, the cause of the Universe's acceleration. Scientists can measure the distance of a supernova from Earth by calculating how much the light from the exploding star fades. The ANU project allows citizen scientists to use a web portal on Zooniverse.org to search images taken by the SkyMapper 1.3-metre telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory for the SkyMapper Transient Survey. Citizen volunteers scan the SkyMapper images online to look for differences and mark up those differences for the researchers to follow up. SkyMapper is the only telescope that is doing a comprehensive survey of the southern sky looking for supernovae and other interesting transient events at these distances. Watch a video interview with Dr Brad Tucker about the project: youtu.be/NzSG9Ax_e_s People can to participate in the ANU citizen science project at http://www. to join the search for exploding stars.


ANU has invited everyone with an interest in astronomy to join the University's search for exploding stars called supernovae, which scientists can use to measure the Universe and acceleration of its growth. Co-lead researcher Dr Brad Tucker said his team was able to confirm a previously unknown object was a real exploding star in just a day, thanks to the efficiency and dedication of volunteer supernovae hunters - more than 700 of them. "The supernova is about 970 million light years away, meaning that it exploded before the dinosaurs were even on the Earth," said Dr Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA). "This is the exact type of supernova we're looking for - type Ia supernova - to measure properties of and distances across the Universe." Among the amateur co-discoverers are Alan Craggs from Aberdeenshire in Scotland and Elisabeth Baeten from Belgium. Seven potential supernovae have been reported to the Transient Name Server. "We are tracking 18 other possible exploding stars," Dr Tucker said. Co-lead researcher Dr Anais Möller said the Ia supernova discovered through the ANU project had already been named. "Supernovae have boring names - it's called SN2017dxh," said Dr Möller from RSAA. "We are recognising volunteers by listing the first three people to find a previously unknown supernova in the discovery when we report it to the International Astronomical Union. "In the first 24 hours we had over 30,000 classifications. We've almost reached 40,000 classifications, with more than 1,300 images classified, since the launch of our project." Astrophysicists use supernovae, which are explosions as bright as 100 million billion billion billion lightning bolts, as light sources to measure how the Universe is growing and better understand dark energy, the cause of the Universe's acceleration. Scientists can measure the distance of a supernova from Earth by calculating how much the light from the exploding star fades. The ANU project allows citizen scientists to use a web portal on Zooniverse.org to search images taken by the SkyMapper 1.3-metre telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory for the SkyMapper Transient Survey. Citizen volunteers scan the SkyMapper images online to look for differences and mark up those differences for the researchers to follow up. SkyMapper is the only telescope that is doing a comprehensive survey of the southern sky looking for supernovae and other interesting transient events at these distances. Watch a video interview with Dr Brad Tucker about the project: People can to participate in the ANU citizen science project at http://www.zooniverse.org/projects/skymap/supernova-sighting to join the search for exploding stars. Explore further: Four unknown objects being investigated in Planet 9 search


Online volunteers, including a woman from Belgium and a Scottish man, have helped astronomers at The Australian National University (ANU) find a star that exploded 970 million years ago, predating the dinosaurs' time on Earth. ANU has invited everyone with an interest in astronomy to join the University's search for exploding stars called supernovae, which scientists can use to measure the Universe and acceleration of its growth. Co-lead researcher Dr Brad Tucker said his team was able to confirm a previously unknown object was a real exploding star in just a day, thanks to the efficiency and dedication of volunteer supernovae hunters -- more than 700 of them. "The supernova is about 970 million light years away, meaning that it exploded before the dinosaurs were even on the Earth," said Dr Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA). "This is the exact type of supernova we're looking for -- type Ia supernova -- to measure properties of and distances across the Universe." Among the amateur co-discoverers are Alan Craggs from Aberdeenshire in Scotland and Elisabeth Baeten from Belgium. Seven potential supernovae have been reported to the Transient Name Server. "We are tracking 18 other possible exploding stars," Dr Tucker said. Co-lead researcher Dr Anais Möller said the Ia supernova discovered through the ANU project had already been named. "Supernovae have boring names -- it's called SN2017dxh," said Dr Möller from RSAA. "We are recognising volunteers by listing the first three people to find a previously unknown supernova in the discovery when we report it to the International Astronomical Union. "In the first 24 hours we had over 30,000 classifications. We've almost reached 40,000 classifications, with more than 1,300 images classified, since the launch of our project." Astrophysicists use supernovae, which are explosions as bright as 100 million billion billion billion lightning bolts, as light sources to measure how the Universe is growing and better understand dark energy, the cause of the Universe's acceleration. Scientists can measure the distance of a supernova from Earth by calculating how much the light from the exploding star fades. The ANU project allows citizen scientists to use a web portal on Zooniverse.org to search images taken by the SkyMapper 1.3-metre telescope at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory for the SkyMapper Transient Survey. Citizen volunteers scan the SkyMapper images online to look for differences and mark up those differences for the researchers to follow up. SkyMapper is the only telescope that is doing a comprehensive survey of the southern sky looking for supernovae and other interesting transient events at these distances.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Scientists, community members, and educators from around the world will gather at the Citizen Science Association (CSA) "CitSci2017" Conference to share innovations and best practices for significant research collaborations between scientists and everyday citizens. CitSci2017 will be held in St. Paul, MN, May 17 - 20. Even as the discipline of citizen science is gaining high-profile attention, practitioners are rapidly advancing research collaborations in new directions and new disciplines. It takes dedication and ingenuity to ensure that citizen science results in relevant and useful science, as well as meaningful collaboration experiences. Leading educators, researchers, community organizations, and others will come together at this event to explore how citizen science is being used across disciplines, geographic boundaries, and scientific fields. They will discuss the latest research, projects, trends, and experiments in citizen science. "University of Minnesota researchers have long been finding innovative ways to harness the power of citizen science," said Karen Hanson, executive vice president and provost at the U of M, which partnered with CSA as a sponsor for the event. "I am delighted that this conference will provide our researchers an opportunity to join peers from across the nation to shape the promising field of citizen science, expanding its capabilities and driving forward our understanding of the world." The power of citizen science will be demonstrated during two Conference Keynotes. Dr. Marc Edwards, professor of environmental and water resources engineering at Virginia Tech, was instrumental in demonstrating that Flint, MI dangerously contaminated water. He and LeeAnne Walters, a Flint, MI citizen and mother of four, will discuss how they worked together to bring Flint's water crisis to national, and international, attention. A second keynote by Dr. Ellen Jorgensen of Genspace, a community biolab, will explore how open spaces for biotechnology research can promote both scientific literacy and new discoveries in molecular and synthetic biology. "Citizen science allows research to expand beyond traditional limitations, not only in terms of a project's scope but also in its connection to the public," said Lucy Fortson, Ph.D., associate head of physics and astronomy in the College of Science and Engineering and head of U of M's Zooniverse@UMN citizen science initiative. "This conference will help experts from across academic disciplines embrace the best citizen science practices, cultivate new ideas for research projects, and better engage their communities in conducting scientific research." This event also emphasizes local engagement. On Wednesday, technology enthusiasts are invited to help create new tools and platforms for citizen science in a hackathon event called Create Together Day hosted by the University of Minnesota. A Friday evening "Café Scientifique" event, A Night in the Cloud, will feature a screening of the new PBS series,The Crowd & The Cloud, with a chance to meet stars from the show. Before the screening, visitors can mingle with leaders from over 75 different projects to see the impact of participation and learn how to get involved. On Saturday, May 20, families can participate in the Science Museum of Minnesota's Citizen Science Festival. 25 leaders will share their current projects so the public can engage in fun and practical hands-on activities, such as monitoring monarchs, exploring the impacts of light pollution, mapping precipitation, and recording water quality. The Citizen Science Association unites expertise from educators, scientists, data managers, and others to power citizen science, which is the involvement of the public in scientific research - whether community-driven research or global investigations. Find out more at http://citizenscience. . See a sampling of research projects (or join one yourself) at https:/ .


News Article | February 17, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Citizen scientists can join an online hunt for icy worlds, brown dwarfs and other yet-to-be-discovered objects beyond the orbit of Neptune, using a technique that’s not all that different from the method that led to Pluto’s discovery 87 years ago. “Backyard Worlds: Planet 9” could even lead to the discovery of a super-Earth that may (or may not) be hidden on the solar system’s far frontier. The icy world known as Planet Nine or Planet X is only theoretical for now, but its existence would explain some of the puzzles surrounding the weird orbits of some far-out objects. The “Backyard Worlds” website offers up millions of mini-movies that incorporate infrared imagery from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The movies show the same patch of sky at different times, going back and forth like a flipbook. The project involves getting volunteers to watch the movies and look for telltale changes in the positions of points of light between one view and the other. Promising prospects are flagged for a follow-up look by professional astronomers. Back in 1930, Lowell Observatory astronomer Clyde Tombaugh used a contraption known as a blink comparator to flip between photographic plates. The desk-sized device helped him spot a dot that turned out to be the dwarf planet Pluto. Today, computers conduct similar analyses of images much more quickly to identify dwarf planets, asteroids and the failed stars known as brown dwarfs. But sometimes the software gets tripped up by image artifacts, and sometimes human vision can pick up on the patterns that computers miss. The organizers of “Backyard Worlds” are counting on that human factor. “There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored,” the project’s lead researcher, Marc Kuchner of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a news release. “Because there’s so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light. But by looking in the infrared, WISE may have imaged objects we otherwise would have missed.” Participants will win a share of the credit in any scientific discoveries that the project brings to light. “‘Backyard Worlds: Planet 9’ has the potential to unlock once-in-a-century discoveries, and it’s exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist,” Berkeley team member Aaron Meisner said in today’s news release. The project is a collaboration involving NASA, the University of California at Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Zooniverse. Are far-out planets not your thing? There’s more to choose from: Zooniverse has pioneered lots of other online citizen science projects over the years, including Galaxy Zoo, Ancient Lives and Fossil Finder.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Think you can find Planet 9? A new citizen-science project lets participants search for hidden solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune, where a possible ninth planet may lie. The Zooniverse website enlists the public's help in performing scientific research. For example, the Planet Hunters project looked for signs of alien planets transiting their parent stars. The Zooniverse projects now span a wide range of topics, from space to literature. The newest entry in the Zooniverse space-projects list is called Backyard Worlds: Find Planet 9. You can learn more about the project at Zooniverse's Backyard Worlds website here. For this project, participants are asked to look through data collected by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and help to separate real objects from system artifacts that can look like real objects (false positives). Citizen scientists will look for spots of light that move across the sky, signaling that those points of light are objects relatively close to Earth compared to the background stars. [The Evidence for 'Planet Nine' in Images (Gallery)] Like all of the Zooniverse projects, Backyard Worlds is asking citizen scientists to do a job that can't be done by a computer. "While it's possible to process the data to find moving points of light, we can't get rid of all the noise," according to the Zooniverse website. "Spiky images of stars, especially variable stars, are everywhere. Worse, are the optical ghosts, blurry blobs of light that have been scattered around inside WISE's instruments. These can hop back and forth, or even change color. These artifacts can easily fool our image processing software. "But with your powerful human eyes, you can help us recognize real objects of interest that move among these artifacts," the description reads. "You'll be able to tell what objects are real by the way they move around differently from the artifacts." The website compares the method used in Backyard Worlds to the approach taken by Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930. Tombaugh used photographic plates and a device called a blink comparator to look for moving objects in the night sky. Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies a belt of cold, icy objects called the Kuiper Belt; beyond that is a sphere of similar objects called the Oort Cloud. There are a few dwarf planets in addition to Pluto that lie in this region. Between Neptune and the nearest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri, there may be a planet about the size of Neptune, according to some recent predictions by a group of scientists at the California Institute of Technology. The research team also says the object is very likely visible with modern telescopes and could be discovered in the next year. "There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored," Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement from NASA. "Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light," Kuchner said. But WISE searches for infrared light, which can be emitted by objects that are too cool to emit visible light. (Even human bodies radiate infrared light.) The WISE mission scanned the entire sky in 2009 and 2010, uncovering distant galaxies, black holes and objects called brown dwarfs, which are larger than Jupiter but smaller than dwarf stars. There may be a hidden population of brown dwarfs in the region just outside the solar system, according to the Zooniverse website. The WISE spacecraft was also used to search for near-Earth asteroids. "Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has the potential to unlock once-in-a-century discoveries, and it's exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist," Aaron Meisner, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in analyzing WISE images, said in the statement. Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a collaboration among NASA, UC Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Zooniverse, according to the statement from NASA. Follow Calla Cofield @callacofield. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.


News Article | February 16, 2017
Site: motherboard.vice.com

No new planets have been spotted in our solar system since Neptune was identified in 1846 (I'm excluding Pluto, discovered in 1930, because it has been since demoted to a dwarf planet). But this doesn't necessarily mean that our solar family is complete. There may be stragglers out there we haven't found yet. Over the past year, mounting evidence suggests that a Neptune-sized world is orbiting the Sun at a distance of at least 30 billion kilometers (19 billion miles), about 200 times the orbit of the Earth around our star. The gravitational signature of this mysterious "Planet Nine," as it has been dubbed, was described in January 2016 by Caltech astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown, but nobody has produced a firm visual yet. READ MORE: Stop Blaming Everything on Planet Nine Fortunately, that may change soon, thanks to the new NASA-funded website Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, launched on Wednesday. Though the project sounds like a mashup between an Ed Wood movie and a scifi-themed porno, it is shaping up to be a thriving space for citizen scientists looking to nab the honor of the first look at this hypothesized sibling planet, which may be a foreign visitor captured by the Sun's gravity—or perhaps an exiled reject, uprooted from the inner solar system to the far edge of the Kuiper Belt. Either way, the search is on. Here's the rundown: Backyard Worlds displays infrared images taken by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft, which specializes in spying dim objects like distant planets or failed stars known as "brown dwarfs." Site users can examine flipbook-style image sets, tag moving objects in them for classification, and share the results with the wider community. The hope is that this will lead to crowdsourced observations of the much-anticipated Planet Nine, as well as other dim objects inside and around the solar system. Though it is intended for the public, the project is a collaboration of researchers based at NASA, the American Museum of Natural History, Arizona State University, UC Berkeley, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and citizen science portal Zooniverse. It's exciting to think we may be months, weeks, or even days away from pinpointing the whereabouts of the ninth planet-sized world in the solar system—if it really does exist—and that it may not be a seasoned astronomer who seizes this milestone. It could be anyone with an internet connection. Happy hunting! Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter.


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

NASA is inviting the public to help search for possible undiscovered worlds in the outer reaches of our solar system and in neighboring interstellar space. A new website, called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, lets everyone participate in the search by viewing brief movies made from images captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. The movies highlight objects that have gradually moved across the sky. "There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored," said lead researcher Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light. But by looking in the infrared, WISE may have imaged objects we otherwise would have missed." WISE scanned the entire sky between 2010 and 2011, producing the most comprehensive survey at mid-infrared wavelengths currently available. With the completion of its primary mission, WISE was shut down in 2011. It was then reactivated in 2013 and given a new mission assisting NASA's efforts to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs), which are asteroids and comets on orbits that bring them into the vicinity of Earth's orbit. The mission was renamed the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE). The new website uses the data to search for unknown objects in and beyond our own solar system. In 2016, astronomers at Caltech in Pasadena, California, showed that several distant solar system objects possessed orbital features indicating they were affected by the gravity of an as-yet-undetected planet, which the researchers nicknamed "Planet Nine." If Planet Nine -- also known as Planet X -- exists and is as bright as some predictions, it could show up in WISE data. The search also may discover more distant objects like brown dwarfs, sometimes called failed stars, in nearby interstellar space. "Brown dwarfs form like stars but evolve like planets, and the coldest ones are much like Jupiter," said team member Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these strange rogue worlds." Unlike more distant objects, those in or closer to the solar system appear to move across the sky at different rates. The best way to discover them is through a systematic search of moving objects in WISE images. While parts of this search can be done by computers, machines are often overwhelmed by image artifacts, especially in crowded parts of the sky. These include brightness spikes associated with star images and blurry blobs caused by light scattered inside WISE's instruments. Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 relies on human eyes because we easily recognize the important moving objects while ignoring the artifacts. It's a 21st-century version of the technique astronomer Clyde Tombaugh used to find Pluto in 1930, a discovery made 87 years ago this week. On the website, people around the world can work their way through millions of "flipbooks," which are brief animations showing how small patches of the sky changed over several years. Moving objects flagged by participants will be prioritized by the science team for follow-up observations by professional astronomers. Participants will share credit for their discoveries in any scientific publications that result from the project. "Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has the potential to unlock once-in-a-century discoveries, and it's exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist," said team member Aaron Meisner, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in analyzing WISE images. Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a collaboration between NASA, UC Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Zooniverse, a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop and manage citizen science projects on the internet. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages and operates WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The WISE mission was selected competitively under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA. For more information about Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, visit: For more information about NASA's WISE mission, visit:


News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: phys.org

"There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored," said lead researcher Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light. But by looking in the infrared, WISE may have imaged objects we otherwise would have missed." WISE scanned the entire sky between 2010 and 2011, producing the most comprehensive survey at mid-infrared wavelengths currently available. With the completion of its primary mission, WISE was shut down in 2011. It was then reactivated in 2013 and given a new mission assisting NASA's efforts to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs), which are asteroids and comets on orbits that bring them into the vicinity of Earth's orbit. The mission was renamed the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE). The new website uses the data to search for unknown objects in and beyond our own solar system. In 2016, astronomers at Caltech in Pasadena, California, showed that several distant solar system objects possessed orbital features indicating they were affected by the gravity of an as-yet-undetected planet, which the researchers nicknamed "Planet Nine." If Planet Nine—also known as Planet X—exists and is as bright as some predictions, it could show up in WISE data. The search also may discover more distant objects like brown dwarfs, sometimes called failed stars, in nearby interstellar space. "Brown dwarfs form like stars but evolve like planets, and the coldest ones are much like Jupiter," said team member Jackie Faherty, an astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these strange rogue worlds." Unlike more distant objects, those in or closer to the solar system appear to move across the sky at different rates. The best way to discover them is through a systematic search of moving objects in WISE images. While parts of this search can be done by computers, machines are often overwhelmed by image artifacts, especially in crowded parts of the sky. These include brightness spikes associated with star images and blurry blobs caused by light scattered inside WISE's instruments. Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 relies on human eyes because we easily recognize the important moving objects while ignoring the artifacts. It's a 21st-century version of the technique astronomer Clyde Tombaugh used to find Pluto in 1930, a discovery made 87 years ago this week. On the website, people around the world can work their way through millions of "flipbooks," which are brief animations showing how small patches of the sky changed over several years. Moving objects flagged by participants will be prioritized by the science team for follow-up observations by professional astronomers. Participants will share credit for their discoveries in any scientific publications that result from the project. "Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has the potential to unlock once-in-a-century discoveries, and it's exciting to think they could be spotted first by a citizen scientist," said team member Aaron Meisner, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in analyzing WISE images. Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a collaboration between NASA, UC Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and Zooniverse, a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop and manage citizen science projects on the internet. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages and operates WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The WISE mission was selected competitively under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech, which manages JPL for NASA. Explore further: NEOWISE mission spies one comet, maybe two


News Article | February 18, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

NASA needs help finding space objects, so the government agency teamed up with astronomy site Zooniverse for a new project that will recruit the public to help aid in the search for hidden planets and other solar system objects beyond Neptune. The NASA-funded project, named Backyard Worlds: Find Planet 9, launched on Zooniverse Wednesday. Participants in the project will search through data collected by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and separate actual celestial objects like brown dwarfs and low-mass stars from image artifacts that can sometimes appear to be real objects, referred to as false positive. WISE has pumped out hundreds of thousands of images but the computer system was unable to determine actual space object from image errors. “Spiky images of stars, especially variable stars, are everywhere. Worse, are the optical ghosts, blurry blobs of light that have been scattered around inside WISE's instruments. These can hop back and forth, or even change color. These artifacts can easily fool our image processing software,” Zooniverse said in a statement. “But with your powerful human eyes, you can help us recognize real objects of interest that move among these artifacts.” Citizen scientists participating in the project will investigate images beyond Neptune’s orbit for objects in a solar belt called the Kuiper Belt, which contains a few dwarf planets as well as Pluto. Researchers were also hoping someone will help them find another planet that could be in the sun’s orbit between Promixma Centauri, the closest star to the sun, and Neptune. “There are just over four light-years between Neptune and Promixma Centauri, the nearest star, and much of this vast territory is unexplored,” Marc Kuchner, a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center astrophysicist said in a statement. “Because there's so little sunlight, even large objects in that region barely shine in visible light. But by looking in the infrared, WISE may have imaged objects we otherwise would have missed." Wise was first launched in 2010 and scanned the sky until 2011. The system was reactivated in 2013 and has aided NASA’s efforts to find potentially hazardous near-Earth objects like asteroids and comets. The public project comes just days after NASA completed its crowdsource space poop challenge, which asked citizens to design an innovative waste management system that could be used by astronauts in space on missions lasting up to 144 hours or six days.

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