Amateur Planet Hunters Discover New Worlds

The Planet Hunters blog announced the latest exoplanet discoveries. Scientists at the crowdsourced astronomy project wrote that The Astronomical Journal published their latest paper describing 14 planets discovered in data from the Kepler Mission. Planet Hunters relies on 280,000 volunteers around the world to examine data, called light curves, from the Kepler Space Telescope for signs of exoplanets. In less than four years these volunteers have analyzed over 21,000,000 light curves. 

The discoveries include a 7th planet orbiting the star KOI-351. That discovery makes KOI-351 the largest known star system other than our own. It’s also very similar in that its inner planets are relatively small while the outer planets are gas giants. Unlike the Solar System, however, all 7 planets circle within one astronomical unit of KOI-351. Imagine all of the planets of our Solar System crammed within the space between the Sun and Earth. Traveling from planet to planet would be a lot easier.

The paper itself is very readable - especially the introductory sections and the conclusions - and shows how amateurs supplement the sophisticated work of professional astronomers. If you have access to The Astronomical Journal, you can read the article at doi:10.1088/0004-6256/148/2/2. Otherwise you can read the free preprint at arXiv:1310.5912.