We were already raving about the (possibly) new entry in our solar system: ladies and gentleman, here we have… Planet 9!
Yes, yes, it is again the object that might be (or might not) somewhere out there to justify the anomalies of some of the outer planet’s orbits. In the begin of 20th century, actually the astronomer Lowell, already theorised the existence of such a planet and when Pluto was discovered actually the hunt seemed to be over. But Pluto (besides the technical aspect that it is not anymore a planet), is not large enough to justify orbit’s anomalies. After Pluto was Sedna (together with the less suggestive named 2010 GB174 and 2012 VP113) which was the major candidate for the role of Planet 9. But once more these bodies are too small, although with absolutely compatible (and fascinating) orbits to take the role of the mission planet.
Ok, ok, this is some history, but the interesting recent project I bumped into is the Zooninverse (yes, the same project talking about Galaxies, and much more, crowd cataloguing) – Planet 9 project.
Help us search for Planet 9; together we may be able to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Universe
In short the idea is to ask to the Zooninversers to have a look to a set of images taken from the SkyMapper Southern Sky Survey; a fully autonomous Australian-based telescope making a digital map of the southern hemisphere sky. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of images to be processed “by eyes” searching for something moving fast (not stars), but not too fast (not asteroids) which can be a Planet 9 candidate to investigate further. Images like the ones below… can you see something?
Multiple answers for a single image: don’t panic, the final answer will be anyway correct! The new frontier of gaming/research, without the concern of wrong (if not faking) results.
Is it an approach which actually works? Well… 5 million classifications in 3 days. I would say that this works, instead of lonely researcher in their ivory towers.
PS. By the way, Sedna has a period of about 11487 years and it will reach its perihelium in 2075-2076. For the time being it is not planned any mission toward this body in that moment, but if I could make a choice, instead (or together) struggling for finding Planet 9, I would definitely take this opportunity (we are talking about reaching “only” 76 Astronomical Units from the Sun, instead of 900…) to explore such a mysterious word.