Tech

Scientists Need Help Finding Earth II, Open Huge Stars Database To Public

By Edge Ison , Feb 15, 2017 11:47 AM EST

Astronomers are seeking help from the public in studying the millions of stars in the vast universe - or at least start with a thousand of them. If lucky, someone with a keen eye may find the next Earth or at least get to name a planet after them.

A team of scientists from different educational bodies, including MIT and the Carnegie Institution for Science, has decided that their collective efforts are not enough to cover all the planets and stars in the massive database they have created. With that in mind, they are releasing the biggest collection of observations to anyone and everyone who is interested.

The observations, which were gathered through radial velocity, will hopefully help guide interested non-scientists to look for exoplanets. Phys.org also noted that an open-source software package that will be needed to process the data will be provided online. Newbies to this kind of work will benefit from the online tutorial that the team of scientists will also provide.

Tech Radar mentions that the database of stars was gathered from the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The observatory is responsible for charting the movements of around 1,600 stars that are nearest to Earth. These are then broken down to 61,000 individual observations.

An astrophysicist from MIT's Kavli Institute, Jennifer Burt, stressed that the decision to open the database to the public will not only help in studying the world and planetary system but also help promote awareness of the kind of work they do. Burt is optimistic that people, despite their lack of formal training in the science, will be inspired to enter the field. At the very least, this provides opportunity for common folks to see what astronomers look at on a daily basis.

In the event that someone does discover a potential Earth II, the next logical step is to have projects such as Elon Musk's SpaceX pursue its objective of revolutionizing space travel. At the very least, anyone who discovers an exoplanet will have the opportunity of having it named after him or her.

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