Time magazine recently posted an article telling how the average Joe can help the Kepler Space Telescope identify planets orbiting other stars. As they explain, computers are good at a lot of things, but they aren’t as up to the task of recognizing patterns as is the human eye. To tap into the billions of eyes on Earth, NASA has set up PlanetHunters.org where you and I can view the light signature of stars, looking for telltale signs a planet may be there.
With easy-to-use online software, Planet Hunters helps you to classify and mark light patterns. The cool thing is that multiple people see the same signatures so that even if you miss something, others may pick it up. If enough people indicate the same pattern, then it is elevated to NASA scientists to take a closer look. It’s kind of like the Groupon of astronomy. And does it work? NASA reports that nearly 50 planets have been identified via the Planet Hunters website in just a few months. That sounds like a win-win to me: we help NASA and NASA helps stargazers to become planet-gazers.
Question: Do you like the idea of being able to participate in scientific research online?