For the first time, two of the probable planets found by Kepler were identified by ordinary people just like you.
Science is leaning more on the ability to source the help of thousands of people who do not have Ph.d's in astrophysics or any other field to conduct research, with amazing results. This latest case comes from a project called Planet Hunters, which anyone can join for free. Once you join, you can help look for new worlds in space along with the experts.
So far, with 40,000 people in 91 countries helping sort through data, the Planet Hunters users have identified two very likely possible planets. One, according to the article at CNN, is a "Super-Earth," about twice the size of our planet, and the other is about the size of Saturn.
Planet Hunters also helped find "Tatooine," the first planet found that orbits two stars at once, about four months ago. They discovered the planet at nearly the same time as the Kepler team found it.
What a great opportunity this is for anyone who wants to be involved in science! Whether you call it "crowd-sourced," "distributed," or "citizen science," it is speeding up our scientific knowledge and giving us all a chance to learn more about our world and our universe.
Even children can be involved in Planet Hunters, which is open to everyone. As Natalie Batalha, co-investigator for the Kepler mission said in the CNN article,
"It's a perfect opportunity for even children to become involved, and to really learn what the scientific process is, what the scientific method is, and that thrill of discovery at an age where they still have the opportunity to make decisions about their future."
What a great opportunity for science teachers to bring real excitement into the classroom! What a wonderful opportunity for us all!
Kepler has discovered over 1,200 candidate planets to date. You, or your child, could help discover the next one!