Zooniverse, an online program that enlists citizen scientists to conduct scientific research, just announced a new project to search for one or more undiscovered worlds in the outer solar system.
The project is similar to Zooniverse’s Planet Hunters project, in which participants look for exoplanets by studying the dimming of stars’ light that could be caused by a transiting planet.
For the new Backyard Worlds project, citizen scientists are asked to study data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope to distinguish points of light moving against background stars from artifacts, which are false positives caused by system errors.
The movement of these points of light against the field of background stars indicates these objects are relatively close to Earth, much closer than other star systems.
According to Zooniverse, the method citizen scientists will use in this project is much like that used by Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Tombaugh captured images of the sky on photographic plates, then used a blink comparator to find objects that moved against background stars from one frame to the next.
Between Pluto and Proxima Centauri, the nearest star at four light years from Earth, sit both the Kuiper Belt, a region ...