For several years there has been a constant argument about how many planets are in our solar system. No I am not talking about the “Is Pluto a planet or not” argument, I am talking about the mythical Planet X. Well now, a formal project to find the elisuve body has been launched and the results so far are “very Interesting”.
The project is using serious citizen scientists to help process the information gleaned from the SkyMapper telescope located at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Thus far, they have flagged four objects for follow-up study in the hunt for the hypothetical Planet Nine. The four unknown objects were spotted in images of the southern sky captured recently by the SkyMapper telescope.
More than 60,000 people from around the world have been going over these images looking for candidates. So far, they have made about 5 million classifications, said researchers with the Australian National University (ANU), which organized the citizen-science project.
Astronomers will now use Siding Spring and other telescopes around the world to investigate the four objects to determine if they’re viable Planet Nine candidates. But even if they’re not, the search has still yielded valuable information, project team members said. [The Evidence for ‘Planet Nine’ in Images (Gallery)]
“We’ve managed to rule out a planet about the size of Neptune being in about 90 percent of the southern sky out to a depth of about 350 times the distance the Earth is from the sun,” research leader Brad Tucker, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, said in a statement.
“With the help of tens of thousands of dedicated volunteers sifting through hundreds of thousands of images taken by SkyMapper, we have achieved four years of scientific analysis in under three days,” Tucker added.
The existence of Planet Nine was first seriously proposed in 2014 by astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo. The hunt for Planet Nine is now on, as shown by the ANU-led effort, which involved the citizen-science site Zooniverse.org. You can learn more about it here (but note that the public-participation aspect of the project has ended):