The ANU or the Australian National University is looking to launch a new search for the elusive Planet 9. In doing so, it is also looking for the public’s help and inviting amateur astronomers to join in the quest.
Space enthusiasts can already get involved in a number of star hunting projects. Now, they will have a new one. This could also offer them a new occasion to explore previously unseen data as they search for the elusive planet.
ANU And Its Public Planet 9 Search
ANU has recently launched a new website. This will specifically target this search by offering access to the university’s image database. These were gathered with help from the SkyMapper telescope. Situated at Siding Spring, this has been assisting astronomers in mapping out the night sky.
Now, the SkyMapper will be taking photos of only a specific region of the sky. It will be targeting its southern part, which is a relatively unexplored area. In order to do so, it will be taking 36 images for every part of the night sky. By doing so, researchers are hoping to identify the changes taking place in the Universe.
This is where the citizen scientists will come in. They will be studying the SkyMapper images online. Then, if they spot a difference, they can mark it on the photo. ANU researchers will be taking over from there on. They will take a closer look at the image.
If the discovery is in fact Planet 9, the citizen scientists will be given credit. They will continue working with the ANU astronomers in order to validate their discovery. This process will be acknowledged through the IAU or the International Astronomical Union.
Planet 9 And The Mystery Surrounding It
Research on the elusive Planet 9 is being led by Dr. Brad Tucker, an ANU astrophysicist. According to him:
“We have the potential to find a new planet in our Solar System that no human has ever seen in our two-million-year history.”
He also stated that the project will most likely reveal other mystery space bodies as well. Dr. Tucker believes that people will spot comets, asteroids, or dwarf planets, for example. Nonetheless, Planet 9 is the big target.
This is predicted to be a “super Earth”. It could have almost 10 times its mass and also 4 times its size. Probably located far away from our planet, it will also be very cold. Estimates place it somewhere around 800 times the distance between the Sun and Earth.
The ANU project will be officially launched during a BBC Stargazing Live broadcast. Professor Brian Cox will be leading the event as it will be transmitted from the ANU Siding Spring Observatory. Additional information is available on the project’s website.
Image Source: Wikimedia