Friday, November 9, 2012

Astronomical crowdsourcing

I just read a short piece in this month's issue of Nature Physics about a number of astronomical discoveries made this past month. One exciting discovery was of a Neptune-sized exoplanet found in a complicated orbit around four stars about 5000 light years away. I find this absolutely amazing, and even more so considering that it was found by a crowdsourcing website called that recruits public users in identifying transits from a large database of astronomical data.

This is one example of data-centric science, but it is slightly different from the way I've presented it in past posts. In particular, this is an observation that was not driven by some unanswered question. Rather, people were simply looking at data to find planets.

I think that this is really cool, but I do wonder why somebody hasn't written some code to do the data analysis.