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New Five-Planet Solar System Found by Citizen Scientists Using Kepler Data

New Five-Planet Solar System Found by Citizen Scientists Using Kepler Data

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how it was discovered, let's dive in and take a look at the new star system. The five known planets are all between the size of Earth and Neptune.

Since the discovery of four planets in this system was announced a year ago, Dr Christiansen has been working to shed further light on this distant planetary neighbourhood, dubbed K2-138. Citizen scientists and astronomers are now searching through the new data trove, indicating that more new exciting discoveries may be in the offing.

All five exoplanets are likely scorching hot.

The multi-planet system was detected as part of the Exoplanet Explorers project, which uses the online Zooniverse platform and data from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.

This artist concept shows K2-138, the first multi-planet system discovered by citizen scientists.

The alien worlds, all orbiting a Sun-like star located within the constellation Aquarius, are considered super- Earths, sizing in at two to three times larger than our own planet, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States said. They pored through publicly available data from K2, a follow-on to NASA's Kepler Space Telescope mission, which since 2009 has observed the sky for signs of Earth-like planets orbiting Sun-like stars. And that is how the five exoplanets of K2-138 were found.

According to Nasa, the central sun in K2-138 is slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun.

They used the W M Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii to obtain high-resolution spectra of 1,305 stars hosting 2,025 transiting planets originally discovered by Kepler.

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Exoplanet Explorers, founded by Caltech staff scientist Jessie Christiansen, was launched in 2017, and it has attracted thousands of citizen scientists to the cause.

While the fact that citizen scientists were the main discoverers of these exoplanets is exciting, and perhaps a harbinger of other similar finds in the future, the discovery itself also has some value for astrophysics.

"We have each potential transit signal looked at by a minimum of 10 people, and each needs a minimum of 90 percent of "yes" votes to be considered for further characterization", she added. "So, we chose to look for a multi-planet system because it's very hard to get an accidental false signal of several planets".

"What's exciting is that we found this unusual system with the help of the general public". When the terrestrial planets were still forming, Jupiter and Saturn scattered the protoplanets and increased the number of collisions among them.

The credit for the discovery of the alien planetary system goes to the over 1,000 citizen scientists across the globe, who worked on a project called Exoplanet Explorers. A fifth planet was also discovered on the same chain, with hints of a sixth as well.

Yay, citizen scientists! More of this, please.

"If we are making trying to find life on a world like ours, first we need to find other worlds like Earth".

The collected findings have now been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.


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