Here's how you can help NASA find 'Planet Nine'

Have you ever dreamt of being a part of something bigger, something larger than life? Well, here’s your chance to be ‘Silver Surfer’ and search for the mysterious ‘planet nine’.

American space research organisation NASA is inviting the Astro buffs from around the world to surf through its intensive database of its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission and locate planet nine, that is if it is out there. A website called ‘Backyard World: Planet 9’ lets the space enthusiasts participate in the search by letting them view the movies made WISE.

So, what’s the deal with planet nine?
Planet nine is a planetary body that is hypothesised to be located far beyond the Kuiper Belt and could be the roughly the same size as that of Neptune. It is interesting to note that the scientists haven’t directly observed planet nine. However, the evidence about its existence comes from studying the objects in the Kuiper Belt of our galaxy.

What’s the project all about?
‘Backyard World: Planet 9’ is not only about finding the mysterious planet but also about identifying the stars located outside our solar system.

Lead researcher of Backyard World: Planet 9, Marc Kuchner who is also an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said that there are over four light years between Neptune and Proxima Centauri, which is our Sun’s nearest neighbour. Researchers believe that the Sun’s neighbourhood is the home to many low-mass objects called ‘brown dwarfs’. These objects emit very little light in the visible wavelength but can be easily detected using infrared scanners.


Planet Nine (Photo: Arizona State University)

What are brown dwarfs?
Brown dwarfs are celestial objects that have masses less than 80 times that of Jupiter, which is when nuclear fusion reaction begins, making them a star.

However, if a brown dwarf is orbiting a star and has a mass that is five times the mass of Jupiter, it would be a star. But an object of similar size could be freely floating in the space and it would still be called a brown dwarf.

How can we locate planet nine?
Well, locating planet nine is easy. All you have to do is watch the movies recorded by NASA’s WISE telescope, which scans the sky and detects infrared light, making it suitable for finding the mysterious celestial objects.

However, the task at hand is not as simple as it seems. Apparently, NASA has automated programs that keep scanning these video for new celestial objects. What makes the search difficult is the background noise. To help NASA, you need to have an eye to detect movement.

So what are you waiting for? Tune into these movies and be a part of something stellar!