Lead author Tarun Kota, a student at Eastview High School. (Credit: Tanisha Kota)
Sixteen new brown dwarfs near our Sun discovered by citizen scientists working on NASA’s Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project have been advertised in the Astronomical Journal. Many astronomers have searched for such objects over the years, so it’s surprising to find new objects so close to the Sun. Each of these discoveries helps us better understand how common or rare different types of objects (stars, brown dwarfs, planets) are. The lead author of the article is Tarun Kota, a student at Eastview High School, located in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Citizen Scientists Tom Bickle, Paul Beaulieu, Guillaume Colin, Les Hamlet. Jorg Schumann, Christopher Tanner and Dan Caselden are named co-authors.
“To find these sixteen objects, I sifted through data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), in a catalog called ‘CatWISE,'” Kota explains. “I used a multitude of analytical tools, including WiseView, which is an image-blinking tool created by citizen scientist Dan Caselden. The most rewarding part of this research experience wasn’t the science — although it was a lot of fun! Kota said. “Rather, it’s all the interactions I’ve had with all types of individuals: professional astronomers, citizen scientists, and high school students. This whole experience has solidified my interest in becoming an astronomer and an educator in the future.
If you would like to help Kota and the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 team explore the immediate vicinity of the Sun for missing brown dwarfs and perhaps even distant planets in our own solar system, visit Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 website.