A new search has been launched for a hidden planet, called Planet 9, beyond Neptune and Pluto on the outer edges of the Solar System.
And the Australian National University (ANU) is inviting anyone with access to the Internet to help make the discovery.
“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,” says astrophysicist Brad Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
He is leading the project, which is being launched by professor Brian Cox during a BBC Stargazing Live broadcast from the ANU Siding Spring Observatory.
Astronomers have long suspected the likelihood of a ninth planet but nothing has been found yet.
“Planet 9 is predicted to be a super Earth, about 10 times the mass and up to four times the size of our planet,” says Tucker.
“It’s going to be cold and far away, and about 800 times the distance between Earth and the sun. It’s pretty mysterious,” he said.
The ANU project will allow citizen scientists to use a website to search hundreds of thousands of images taken by the ANU SkyMapper telescope at Siding Spring.
The ANU scientists explain:
Finding Planet 9 involves citizen volunteers scanning the SkyMapper images online to look for differences.
“It’s actually not that complicated to find Planet 9. It really is spot the difference. Then you just click on the image, mark what is different and we’ll take care of the rest,” says Tucker.
Co-researcher and head of SkyMapper Dr Chris Wolf says SkyMapper was the only telescope in the world that maps the whole southern sky.
“Whatever is hiding there that you can’t see from the north, we will find it,” says Wolf.
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