"Citizen Scientists" Discover Jupiter-Sized Planet NASA Didn't Know About

Have you ever been skimming over some data, and just casually stumble across a brand-new planet? That much is true from Bellevue, Washington's Tom Jacobs, and a team of "citizen scientists" looking over telescope data captured by NASA. Earlier this month, Jacobs and his team published a study in the Astronomical Journal about the exoplanet they found, one comparable in size to Jupiter.

Some 379 light-years from Earth, TOI-2180 b was found in the data provided, orbiting around a star that's similar in size to our Sun. While Jupiter is some 463 million miles from the Sun, this new exoplanet is about positioned where Venus is in our solar system. The makes the gas giant just 66 million miles away from its respective star, give or take a couple a few miles.

"Discovering and publishing TOI-2180 b was a great group effort demonstrating that professional astronomers and seasoned citizen scientists can successfully work together," Jacobs said in a press release offered by NASA. "It is synergy at its best."

The data was taken from NASA's Tess—or Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite—and pored over by the aforementioned citizen scientists online. The goal when scouring this data is to look at a star's brightness over time which could prove the orbits of potential nearby planets. Jacobs group, called the Visual Survey Group, is made up of several citizen scientists and two veteran astronomers.

Last February, Jacobs noticed dimming patterns in the TOI-2180 star and, lo and behold, the group was eventually able to confirm a planet existed there.

"With this new discovery, we are also pushing the limits of the kinds of planets we can extract from TESS observations," University of New Mexico professor Diana Dragomir added. "TESS was not specifically designed to find such long-orbit exoplanets, but our team, with the help of citizen scientists, are digging out these rare gems nonetheless."

TESS will observe the area the planet is located in once again next month, and Jacobs and his team are hoping to complete more research on the planet.

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"We love contributing to science," Jacobs said. "And I love this type of surveying, knowing that one is in new undiscovered territory not seen by any humans before."

You can read the full study published here.