NASA is recruiting amateur ‘alien hunters’ to join their ranks as researchers in the search for life across the galaxy.
A recruitment drive is underway at the American space agency – and applications can be accepted from candidates all over the world.
The agency has launched a citizen science project called Planet Patrol with members of the public invited to help detect planets with the potential to host life – with a vault of millions of images taken in space already waiting to be poured over.
Over 4200 exoplanets – worlds that orbit a sun in a similar way to the Earth – have been discovered by scientists since the 1990s.
NASA is inviting volunteers to examine images captured by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) which have been in orbit of the Earth since 2018.
News.com.au reports a NASA spokesperson describing Planet Patrol as a: “community pursuing the common goal of understanding the universe and our place in it.”
The initiative was launched last week on Zooniverse and has already attracted over 1,600 volunteers who have delivered 100,000 individual classifications.
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The only thing those who want to help with the project need is a device with an internet connection to begin searching the images stored from TESS.
NASA research scientist Veselin Kostov told News.com.au: “Citizen science projects are a great way to engage our built-in, never-ending curiosity about the world we live in — be it our own planet or a planet a hundred light years away.”
And it seems NASA are hoping lockdown could be the perfect recruitment drive for volunteers as millions around the globe find themselves at home with plenty of time on their hands.
The way TESS works is that it looks for stars being partially blocked by passing planets caught in its orbit.
Once the exoplanet’s existence is confirmed, scientists can then determine whether or not the planet may be capable of housing life, or even extraterrestrial intelligence.
While the images are analysed by computers, it is thought a human eye might help spot planets that machines might miss.
As Mr Kostov warns: “The most common impostors are eclipsing binary stars," adding: “The human eye is very good at quickly and reliably spotting such image distortions.”
Those wishing to take part in the Planet Patrol project should visit zooniverse.org for details.
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