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Gamers discover two possible planets

You Canaveral good time with science.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Gamers may have helped discover two new extrasolar planets - worlds, like ours, that orbit a star and make up a solar system.

They did so through Planet Hunters, a browser based game that farms out data from Kepler Space Telescope to the public. The public watch a black graph with white dots on. The white dots measure light emitted by the star over a 30-day period. Your job is to look for dips or low-white-dots, which can suggest a planet orbiting or obstructing light from another planet.

The team responsible for the Planet Hunter already had clever-clogs computers analysing the Kepler data, the tricksters, but decided that humans, too, be given a chance to shine.

"An obvious question is why these candidates [planets] were not identified by the Kepler team," concluded the Kepler team, in a Planet Hunter paper published in a space-azine (via io9). (I don't have a subscription, I find the prices astronomical!)

"One motivation for the Planet Hunters project was that there might be odd cases that computer algorithms might miss, but that the human brain would adeptly identify.

"It is not really surprising that a few candidates failed to converge in the analysis pipelines and remained behind to be gleaned by Planet Hunters. The discoveries presented in this paper show the challenges of field confusion for transiting planets, yet also shows that Citizen Scientists can make important contributions."

Citizen Scientists are, in other words, you.

The two planet candidates are known as KIC 10905746 and KIC 6185331. Plenty of time to work on those.

Space games are great! Here's Mass Effect 3!

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