The Australian National University (ANU) has invited everyday Australian stargazers to join in their search for a new planet (Planet 9) in our Solar System.
The project, headed by ANU astrophysicist Brad Tucker will be launched by Professor Brian Cox during a live broadcast from the ANU Siding Spring Observatory.
According to Brad Tucker, modern computers are no match for the passion of millions of people and it would make possible the discovery of the predicted planet and several other space bodies.
• The planet, which is predicted to be four times as big as Earth with 10 times its mass, is said to exist on the fringe of our solar system.
• It is expected to be extremely cold and very far away, almost 800 times the distance between the Earth and the sun.
• Scientists predicted the existence of the new planet after analysing Pluto’s weird orbit. They felt that the existence of a big-sized planet would make Pluto’s orbit make more sense.
• Neptune was predicted in the exact same way.
• The search operation could also lead to the discovery of new asteroids, comets and dwarf planets like Pluto.
About the Search Operation
• The ANU will be launching online access to the first complete digital map of the southern sky, the part where the planet is predicted to exist.
• The map will be made up of hundreds of thousands of images taken by a robotic telescope called the SkyMapper at the university’s Siding Spring Observatory.
• The telescope would be clicking 36 images of each unexplored part of the southern sky to identify changes occurring within the space.
• The star gazers will be required to comb through the time-lapse images for signs of new objects or differences.
• All they would have to do is look for a red, blue and green dot that would signify the movement of an object across the image over time.
• They will just have to click on the image and mark the difference.
• Once they locate the dots and click on the position, the action would initiate some calculations that would help figure out if it is a good orbit and whether it could be the predicted planet.
• The star gazers would get the chance to name their finding after one of their family members.
Scientists at ANU hope to go through the bulk of pictures within few weeks itself. However, in total, the investigation is expected to take a couple of months.