Become a Citizen Scientist by Helping NASA Decipher Exoplanets

And you can carry out the work from the comfort of your home.
Fabienne Lang

If you join NASA's Planet Patrol, you could call yourself a citizen scientist. 

You can now join NASA in its search for planets beyond our solar system, or exoplanets, via Planet Patrol, a new website dedicated to the search. Members of the public will work together with NASA scientists while going through images captured by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

Quite frankly, the funky name 'Planet Patrol' is enough to make one want to join!


The human touch

Even though machine learning and AI have helped researchers the world around, sometimes you still need a human touch. "Automated methods of processing TESS data sometimes fail to catch imposters that look like exoplanets," stated the project's leader Veselin Kostov, also a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. 

"The human eye is extremely good at spotting such imposters, and we need citizen scientists to help us distinguish between the look-alikes and genuine planets," he continued. 

What you'll need to do

If you join Planet Patrol, you can be expected to go through TESS' snapshots to determine which ones are of potential planets and which ones are potential imposters.

On the website, volunteers will be asked to answer a set of questions for each image they're shown. This ultimately assists scientists in honing in on possible exoplanets for further study.

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214 out of 20,318 subjects completed

Planet Patrol is a working collaboration between NASA, the SETI Institute, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and Zooniverse, among other scientists, software developers, and educators.

It's a fantastic project that will help scientists better understand how our planetary systems form and evolve throughout the universe. 

So far, 1,927 citizen scientist volunteers have signed up for Planet Patrol, with 214 out of 20,318 subjects completed. If you take a look at the statistics on the website, there's still a long way to go — which could be made shorter if you decide to join!

This isn't the first time NASA calls out to citizen scientists for help. Previously, volunteers had assisted by discovering 95 brown dwarfs.

You can sign up for the project here.

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