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You Can Help NASA Prove the Existence of Planet 9

Do you enjoy astronomy? Do you have a bit of free time to help comb through over 200,000 images of the entire celestial sky to see if you can catch a glimpse of a theorized ninth planet? NASA may have an attractive offer for you.

The space agency has funded an initiative dubbed Backyard Worlds to recruit citizen scientists to assist them in evaluating this massive photo library and hopefully make new cosmic discoveries. Using data collected from their Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission, Backyard Worlds allows volunteers to examine images for hints of Planet 9—a world thought to be around the size of Neptune that would help explain recognized irregularities in orbits of objects in the Kuiper Belt. Researchers at Caltech first presented evidence of the planet's existence in 2016.  

Why doesn’t NASA just use computers? In this instance, the human eye is superior. Image software has trouble distinguishing the movements of distant stars and image artifacts from celestial objects relevant to the search.

Roughly 33,000 people have joined the effort since its launch in February and have already identified candidates for brown dwarf status—sometimes known as “failed stars” that are bigger than planets. For now, Planet 9 itself remains elusive—but perhaps not for long. A similar citizen science project in Australia using images taken by the SkyMapper telescope recently turned up four potential candidates

[h/t Vocativ]

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This Organization Wants Your Old Eclipse Glasses
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Johan Ordonez, Getty Images

On Monday, August 21, America hosted what may have been the most-viewed solar eclipse in history. While those of us in the United States are still processing the awesome sight, residents of South America and Asia are just starting to look forward to the next total eclipse in 2019—and anyone who still has their protective glasses on hand can help them prepare.

According to Gizmodo, Astronomers Without Borders is accepting donations of used eyewear following Monday’s event. Any glasses they collect will be redistributed to schools across Asia and South America where children can use them to view the world’s next total eclipse in safety.

Astronomers Without Borders is dedicated to making astronomy accessible to people around the world. For this most recent eclipse, they provided 100,000 free glasses to schools, youth community centers, and children's hospitals in the U.S. If you’re willing to contribute to their next effort, hold on to your specs for now—the group plans to the announce the address where you can send them in the near future. Donors who don't have the patience to wait for updates on the group's Facebook page can send glasses immediately to its corporate sponsor, Explore Scientific, at 1010 S. 48th Street, Springdale, Arizona 72762.

Not sure if your glasses are suitable for reuse? Here’s the criteria they should meet for sun-gazing.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Stare All You Want at These Photos of the Solar Eclipse
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George Frey/Getty Images

It’s Superman’s worst nightmare: the complete disappearance of the Sun from our perch on Earth. For non-Kryptonians, it’s a rare and awesome chance to see a unique spectacle that hasn’t happened for 99 years. Multitudes gathered Monday to observe the solar eclipse, a complete obstruction of the sun’s rays by the moon in an epic galactic photo-bombing. Here’s how stargazers across the country greeted the astronomy event.

Artist Orion Fredericks created this art installation, 'Exsucitare Triectus,' for the public at the Oregon Eclipse Festival in Ochoco National Forest.
Image Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter user Doug McArthur of Portland finds a novel way of avoiding direct eye contact.

Observers at Cal State Fullerton utilize a USPS-approved method for observing the eclipse safely.

That tiny little blemish isn't a bug on your screen: It's the International Space Station transiting the sun during the eclipse.

Pictured: an unidentified man and Zuul, Gatekeeper of Gozer.

The 'diamond ring' effect as seen from the Lowell Observatory in Madras, Oregon.
Image Credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

Another novel way to avoid retina damage while enjoying the spectacle.

Through a portal in Kansas City, Kansas.

Boston gets its view of the celestial sensation.

The safest way to be in awe.

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