Archive by Author | The Zooniverse

Live Chat at 3pm GMT Today

Later today (3PM GMT / 9am CST) we’ll be holding a Google+ Hangout on Air to talk about Planet Hunters science and news. The video feed will be shown here and you’ll also be able to find us find us on the Zooniverse Google+ Page.

If you have questions for the Planet Hunters team you can ask them, either by leaving a comment here on the blog or by tweeting us @planethunters.

PS.  To celebrate  Planet Hunters turning 2 we’ve created another anniversary poster  featuring the names of all the participants.


Transit of Venus: Live

In June 2012 people all over the world will watch the planet Venus transit across the Sun. Planet Hunters is all about spotting planets as they move across the face of a star so we thought it would be good to share the event with everyone. Venus will pass directly between the Earth and Sun on the night of June 5th and the morning of June 6th. This historic event can be seen from many parts of the world and will not happen again for 105 years!

As the map above shows, most people will only see part of the transit. With the help of the GLORIA team, we’ll be showing a live feed of the whole event on the Planet Hunters site. The webcast is being streamed from Tromsø, Sapporo and Cairns and will feature commentary in English and Spanish during the key parts of the event.

Check out our guide to the Transit of Venus, which we’ll update as we approach the event itself. It covers a basic history of the transits, and include information on when and where to see it. It also links to other useful resources for the event, including a Transit Guide from the GLORIA group, and the NASA observers handbook links. We hope you’ll try to see the transit when it happens, but if you’re unable to for some reason, then the webcast means that you can still be a part of this last-chance astronomical event.

New Planet Hunters Co-discoveries

When I posted with news of our second paper’s submission last week I mentioned that the new paper from the Kepler team included a section on Planet Hunters.

Neptune-sized worlds may be the most common in the Universe

The section (7.4, since you’re asking) is fabulous, mentioning the ‘remarkable enthusiasm’ of Planet Hunters volunteers, who are not only have the ‘opportunity to experience the scientific method but also the possibility of experiencing the gratification of discovery’.

There should be a whole lot of gratification around, because as well as our own candidates the paper included details of several co-discoveries, where nine of Kepler’s planet candidates were independently identified by our volunteers. The following Planet Hunters thus can claim to have officially discovered planet candidates. In each case, the names in bold were the first to identify a transit in a particular light curve – congratulations to all involved.

KIC 5864975

pina1234, Mary Corfield, Frank Barnet, Derrick Martinez, Vince Brytus, Darin Ragozzine (!), Gary Butler, Robert Casey, Krishna Babu, ‘shutterbug’, Hein Min Tun, Juan Albornoz, Gerald R. Green, Robert Spiker, Natalie Van Cleef

KIC 11875734

Robert Gagliano (who was on the list for the recently announced candidates too), Malcolm Lambert, Di Miceli Gaetano, Hitesh Patel, Robert Rozanski, Penn Gwenn, Jari Paakkonen, ‘maya’, John Mackereth, ‘zocker’, Dominick Dennis, Carl-Johan Wikman, ‘chulej’, Oleg Tsybulskyi

KIC 8160953

Frank Barnet, John Robinson, ‘colinjdavis’, Jari Paakkonen, Carl Davidson, Bruno Mauguin, Jan Bernard, Lee Chapman, Hans Martin Schwengeler, ‘Aurelhun’, Pablo Barroso Rodriguez, Julie Donnell, Dani Iannarelli, Peter Kool, Simon Humphreys, Chris Price, Alan Bowler, Jeff Mack, Rafal Konkol

KIC 6504954

Patrick Gruber, Malcolm Wain, Andrew Young, Steve Harris, ‘planet10’, Juha Lindqvist, Navid Baraty, ‘ahora’, Julia Fedyakina, John Harper, Pablo Barroso Rodriguez, Sue Wilson, Mathew Hadfield, John Ord, Bob Chau, Calum Patterson, Matthew Connolly

KIC 7761918

Breeann Phillips, Abe Hoekstra, ‘ozanne’, Daniel Speir, ‘komandantmirko’, Daryll LaCourse, Daniel Getler, Gene Cumberland, Dave Skillman, Tony Hoffman, Joe Johnson, ‘Tem’, Steve Stav, Daniel Meyersohn, Frederico Centeno Selbach, Mark Riggs

KIC 3326377

‘ronalde000’, Bob Leask, ‘oneironautics’, Bartömiej Jaracz, Priscilla Nowajewski, ‘lolodec’, Michael Ware, Larry Melanson, Victor Gabriel Bibeo, ‘AtheistRamblings’, Stuart Lynn (!), Abe Hoekstra, Andrew Rose, ‘dalwhinnie’, Loic Petitpas

KIC 6268648

‘snark’, Fiona Wynn, Ilya Karpeev, Lily Lau, ‘nargatte’, Kristian U. Saetre, Lubomir Stiak, D Le Clercq, Jeremy Garrett, Lee Martin, Verena Resch, Robert Fletcher, Jason Muir, Nick Amsel, Michael Kavanagh, Anthony Goddard, Tom Hartfil-Allgood, Shannon McLaughlin, ‘Natframpton’, Peter Unitt, Steve House, Paul Wightman, Pooja Rathod, Simon Stockwell, Jenny Satelle, Owain Dewi Hughes, Richard Hopkins, Adam Bunce, Simon Gardiner, ‘snorrelo’, Thomas McGauran, ‘tom0366’, ‘Chippywheetoes’, Ben Galley, Kirsty McMonagle, Rich Haines, Adam Derdzikowski, ‘pat’, Mark Halstead

2nd Planet Hunters Paper Submitted

Way back in January I blogged about our announcement of two new candidates, confidently predicting that the paper would be out in the next few days. That didn’t happen for all sorts of reasons, but it’s now submitted to the Astronomical Journal. Rather than wait until we get the referee’s seal of approval (or a lot of criticism!), we’ve made the paper public via the arXiv – you can read it here.

Congratulations to Robert Gagliano, Joe Gilardi, Kian Jek, Jari-Pekka Paakkonen & Tjapko Smits

As the picture on the blog post shows, five volunteers are co-authors, many more are thanked in the paper, and there’s a link to the authors page to give credit to all our volunteers for taking part. In the month or so that we’ve had since the conference, we’ve done some more work to pin down the behaviour of these systems. The first exciting new discovery was the length of time between transits was changing slightly for KIC4552729. These transit timing variations, or TTVs, suggest that there’s something else there, another body whose gravity is affecting the orbit of the planet candidate whose transits we do detect. We need more data to work out exactly what’s going on, but the immediate implication is that it’s more likely that our planet candidate is real, as it’s harder to create a three-body system using interference from background eclipsing binaries.

We also – mostly for fun – worked out whether the two planets that Planet Hunters had uncovered could be in the habitable zone of their star, that thin sliver of space where liquid water, and hence life, might be able to survive on the surface of a planet. Now, both of ours are almost certainly too large to be anything but gaseous, and one has to make a planet’s worth of assumptions about things like its albedo (how much light is reflected and how much absorbed by the atmosphere) and its atmosphere. Nonetheless, the encouraging thing is that both of our candidates seem to lie in the habitable zone of their star system, making them interesting targets.

As if that wasn’t enough for one day, also on the arXiv and submitted to the journal is the latest Kepler paper announcing new candidates. They include a section on Planet Hunters, and announce another handful of independent discoveries where we found candidates they’d already uncovered. More on that – including a list of Planet Hunters involved in those discoveries – in the next few days.

Przykłady problemów z danymi w trzecim kwartale

Przeglądając dane z trzeciego kwartału (Q3), można natknąć się na kilka nowych, niespotykanych wcześniej problemów z danymi. Poniżej przedstawiam kilka przykładów zakłóceń, jakie można napotkać podczas klasyfikacji. Powstały one najprawdopodobniej w procesie przetwarzania danych, mającym na celu wyeliminowanie błędów aparatury. Zakłócenia te na wykresie wyglądają zwykle jak duża litera V. Ich jasność najpierw maleje, a potem rośnie lub na odwrót – najpierw rośnie, a potem maleje. Inny rodzaj zakłócenia, jaki może się pojawić, wygląda jak fragment krzywej blasku (dłuższy niż ok. 20 punktów) przesunięty w dół lub w górę wzgledem reszty wykresu. Efekty te nie są spowodowane tranzytami planet i należy je ignorować podczas poszukiwań tranzytów w pozostałych częściach wykresu. Po czym można łatwo rozpoznać zakłócenie? Zwykle opisane kształty V i przesunięcia wykresów pojawiają się przed lub po lukach w wykresie.

Luki w krzywych blasku nie są spowodowane tranzytami planet pozasłonecznych. To fragmenty, na temat których nie posiadamy danych.Mogą one wynikać z przerw w prowadzeniu obserwacji przez Teleskop Kepler (który funkcjonował akurat w trybie bezpiecznym albo wykonywał obrót w kierunku Ziemi w celu przesłania danych) lub z niskiej jakości danych (najprawdopodobniej za sprawą kosmicznego promieniowania padającego na detektor).

Udanych łowów!

Happy B-day PlanetHunters!

It’s hard to believe that the first year has flown by and I would like to thank you and congratulate you on your many successes!  You may not realize it, but you are becoming famous among professional astronomers who appreciate the power of networked citizen scientists.  The total time that you all spent collectively analyzing light curves in the past year adds up to more than 100 years!

In the last year we’ve seen:

  • improvements in the usability of the site
  • growth in the number of users:  there are now more than 70,000 PlanetHunters!
  • increases in the data content: from 1 month to 4 months of light curve data
  • publication of one paper with PlanetHunters users as co-authors – the Kepler computer algorithms are good, but you are discovering planets that the computers miss.

There are some big changes ahead.  NASA and the Kepler team will be accelerating the release of data into the public archives. By this time next year, we expect that the length of the time series light curves on the PlanetHunters site will more than quadruple.  At this point will will be receiving the data almost real-time!

I would also like to thank the Kepler team. The Kepler spacecraft was launched in March 2009 and although the nominal mission ends in 2012, the spacecraft will continue to beam data back to Earth until 2015. However, financial pressures have already resulted in cuts to the Kepler science team. It’s not clear that anyone will be left after next year to receive the messages that Kepler is sending back about planets in Earth-like orbits. Whatever happens, the Kepler team has profoundly changed our understanding of the Universe and I know that I speak for the more than 70,000 PlanetHunters in thanking them for their dedication and hard work.


This world cloud shows the first Planet Hunters paperoutlining the discovery of two planet candidates – as a ball of words. You might call it a Word Planet, in fact. The words used most often in the paper are the largest, such as transit (81 times), planet (71) and Kepler (51), whereas less-used words shrink away to the edges, such as SNR (5), technology (2) and faint (3).

This was created for the 2011 Zooniverse Advent Calendar. Download the full-resolution version here.

Welcoming Polish Planet Hunters

The Polish language version of Planet Hunters is now available. The creation of the first foreign language version of the project reflects our determination to make Zooniverse sites accessible to as many peoples possible, all over the world. The fact that the first foreign language version is Polish is not an accident. Many years ago, at the beginning of the Galaxy Zoo project, a determined bunch of science enthusiasts from Poland joined with the Galaxy Zoo team to create the very first international language version. They have been working with the Zooniverse ever since!

Planet Hunters in Polish was supported by Lech Mankiewicz from the Polish Academy of Science, Jan Pomierny from Polish astronomy portal and Mirek Kolodziej, an engineering student and astronomy enthusiast. Polish citizen scientists have now joined the worldwide community of planet hunters – welcome!

Thanks to the hard work of the team, this means we can now expect Planet Hunters to be available in other languages too. Watch this space!

Anniversary Competition

Before long Planet Hunters will be one year old – we launched on December 16th 2010. It’s been an incredible journey that began with a wild idea and resulted in new planets being discovered by people from allover the world. (The site became available in Polish last week, meaning that even more people can now become planet hunters in their spare time.)

To celebrate a year of amazing citizen science we’ve decided to host a little competition! Every day until Planet Hunters’ birthday on December 16th we’re picking one random classification and that user is getting a prize! All you have to do is classify on Planet Hunters on any day until December 16th to be part of the prize draw. We’ll announce winners, once they’ve been contacted, via the blog and twitter.

Each lucky planet hunter will win either a printed anniversary poster (featuring the names of all our volunteers, see sample above) or an awesome Planet Hunters mug. We’ll get in touch using the email address associated with your Zooniverse account, with you can check in the Account section of Zooniverse Home. The random planet hunter who logs in on our actual anniversary will win a mug, poster and a bonus Yale University mug too!

Good luck and happy planet hunting!

[If you can’t wait, you can download the poster here – warning it’s a 66 MB file.]

Eclipsing Binaries

Today’s post is by one of our undergrads, Farris Gillman ——

Dear Planethunters,

I am a junior at Yale, and just beginning a project to follow up and model the EB’s that you all have discovered! Prof Debra Fischer and I took the 7am train from New Haven to Villanova University on Friday 11/11/11, where we met with Prof Andrej Prsa, an expert in modeling eclisping binary systems. It was a beautiful Fall day in Philadelphia! We returned on the 5am train Saturday morning, a little painful for me, but I got to sleep on the train since I didn’t down gallons of green coffee the night before!

Prof Prsa showed us how to use his program to model the periods and phases of eclipsing binary star systems, and we began working through the list of unique EB’s compiled by kianjin. It was this list of ~150 eclipsing binaries prompted our trip, and I will be working on this data set for my senior thesis project as well. I’m hoping to improve the modeling software and begin looking at some of the statistics of EB’s.  Planet Hunters has been particularly helpful in finding eclipsing binary systems with long periods, which preliminary searches had missed. Dr. Prsa also gave us an overview of his publicly available program PHOEBE (, which you can download too, to model binary systems. Thanks so much for all of your help – I’m really excited to start modeling some of these systems!

-F Gillman