Volunteers needed to help find alien worlds

NASA has just launched a citizen science project called Planet Patrol, which asks volunteers around the world to sort through images collected by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). The aim is to see if alien worlds exist.


Veselin Kostov, a research scientist at NASA said, “Automated methods of processing TESS data sometimes fail to catch imposters that look like exoplanets. The human eye is extremely good at spotting such imposters, and we need citizen scientists to help us distinguish between the lookalikes and genuine planets.”

TESS launched to Earth orbit in April 2018. The spacecraft searches for alien worlds using the transit method by noticing the tiny dips in stellar brightness caused by planets crossing their host stars faces. The tiny dips can have other causes too, like natural stellar variation or a transit by a companion star.


The TESS team uses algorithms to analyse the satellite’s huge data set and to weed out false positives. Researchers have enlisted some human help as computers are far from foolproof.

Citizen scientists have already been scrutinising TESS light curves graphs of stellar brightness over time through Planet Hunters TESS, a project run by the University of Oxford in England.

Planet Patrol is a new online project with partnership involving NASA, the SETI Institute, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and the citizen-science collaborative platform Zooniverse.

Volunteers are asked questions about TESS images of potential exoplanets. Their answers will help mission team members to narrow down candidates for follow up vetting.

Planet Hunters TESS, another initiative, is working toward the same goal but analysing the data in a different way.

Marc Kuchner, the citizen science officer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate said, “We’re all swimming through the same sea of data, just using different strokes. Though Planet Patrol currently focuses only on TESS images, the project will eventually also include light curves, if all goes according to plan.”

If you are interested in helping out, you can go to or to get started. Protection Status

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