So NASA Found Some New Exoplanets…Now What?

34412848-March-8-Planets-600x600-WEBYou have probably heard a lot of excitement over NASA’s recent announcement about the discovery of seven earth-size planets found orbiting around the star TRAPPIST-1, which is part of the constellation Aquarius.

These exoplanets are notable because they exist within the habitable zone of the star (nicknamed Goldilocks planets because this area is not too hot and not too cold) and are probably rocky with the potential to contain water on their surface.

A lot of the enthusiasm revolves around the hope that one of these planets might harbor extraterrestrial life or could be suitable for human inhabitants. Of course, many further observations must be made to determine if these scenarios are plausible, not to mention the huge advances in technology that would need to occur so we could actually verify the planetary conditions or send humans 40 light-years away.

In the meantime, how can you channel your energy spent anticipating the next great discovery? I suggest participating in some of the citizen science efforts related to the search for earth-like planets and other interstellar discoveries. Your contributions could aid in finding the next potentially habitable planet that makes headlines.

34412848-March-8-Research-600x900-WEBZooniverse is a platform that features various projects that depend on citizen scientists. Within the “Space” category, you will find 17 space-related projects you can join. One of these, Planet Hunters, allows you to find undiscovered planets by looking at light curves for stars and analyzing how the brightness changes over time. This change in brightness may indicate a new planet. If research about space isn’t your thing, there are projects within many wide-ranging disciplines, from language and social science to medicine.

The great thing about citizen science is that you don’t need any special knowledge of the research to participate, and it doesn’t require much time. Depending on your level of interest, you could spend a few minutes or hundreds of hours contributing to a project. Taking part in citizen science gives you the opportunity to help a professional researcher collect or analyze data that would not be possible without many individuals working across the globe.

Well, what are you waiting for? Find a project and perform some citizen science!

Do you have other citizen science research projects to share? Tell us about them.

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Darcia is a Science Writer at Promega. She earned her BS in Secondary Education at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, with minors in Biology and Spanish, and her MS in Biotechnology at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She is passionate about sharing scientific knowledge with all audiences, including her family and friends—whether they have solicited the lesson or not! In her free time, Darcia enjoys playing volleyball, eating delicious food and cheering for the Chicago Cubs.

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