When two amateur astronomers noticed via a public data repository that the Kepler space telescope software had possibly overlooked the signal of an unknown planet, they were easily able to point out the mistake to Kepler mission control at NASA, Michael Lemonick reports today on The New Yorker‘s new science and tech blog, Elements.
The post, Crowdsourcing the Stars, describes Zooniverse, formerly known as Galaxy Zoo, which is an online archive of scientific data that anyone can sign up to peruse. At the moment, information shared on the site (housed at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium) by 14 various big research projects is in need of pattern recognition parsing that Lemonick reports is “too laborious for scientists” alone, and too complex for computers, believe it or not.
More than 800,000 citizen scientists worldwide pitch in to do the work from their desktops. The planet that Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano identified in 2011 using “the most powerful pattern-recognition computer in the world—the human brain,” is now known as Kepler 64b.