TUCSON, Ariz. — Have you ever wondered what it would be like to make a big scientific discovery? A citizen scientist program at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory could give you that chance.
Aaron Meisner and the NOAO is using thermal imaging to find cold worlds previously overlooked.
“When it comes to recognizing the subtle motions of celestial bodies humans are still better than the computer.”
They are also looking for all the help they can get.
“It takes a long time and it is a big bottleneck on the research, so instead we thought what if we just crowd sourced the whole thing from the beginning.”
Meisner says they could end up discovering another planet in or near our own solar system. They are also looking for failed stars known as brown dwarfs.
“As you get to smaller stars they get a smaller mass and smaller size, and they get colder. But then you can get even colder, and you end up in this brown dwarf regime right between stars and planets.”
The latest discovery was of a white dwarf. The rings likely formed from surrounding planets colliding together.
“It’s giving us a perspective on what might happen very far in the future for our own solar system.”
Meisner says the data is already collected. All you need to do is go on their website and start looking through it.
“What is cool to me is that we have these vast archives of data and it is possible that there are historical discoveries in the data just sitting there waiting to be made.”