Join NASA's hunt for undiscovered planets

A new NASA-funded website is calling on the public to hunt down rogue worlds, and the mysterious Planet Nine.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr

There's nothing like a little after-lunch planet-hunting, and if you have some time to spare, NASA could use your help. The agency has launched a Zooniverse website called Backyard Worlds: Planet Nine, where anyone can join in the search for undiscovered planets.

It's not as glamorous as piloting a spaceship into the Final Frontier, but it's valuable work. Visitors can pore over images and videos made by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, looking for unknown objects. The big one NASA hopes to find is Planet Nine, an enormous mysterious object out beyond Neptune thought to be having a gravitational effect on distant solar system objects.

But brown dwarfs, objects somewhere between the heaviest planets and the lightest stars, may also appear in some of the images as objects that move around. NASA hopes citizen researchers will find those too. "By using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, the public can help us discover more of these strange rogue worlds," said Jackie Faherty, member of the Backyard Worlds team.

There's a tutorial on the Backyard Worlds website, so head on over and click the Classify button at the top of the page to get started.