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“The most mysterious star in the galaxy”

Charles Margossian writes:

The reading for tomorrow’s class reminded me of a project I worked on as an undergraduate. It was the planet hunter initiative. The project shows light-curves to participants and asks them to find transit signals (i.e. evidence of a transiting planets). The idea was to rely on human pattern recognition capabilities to find planets missed by NASA’s algorithms—and it worked! “The first publication I was involved in was on the discovery of such a planet.

But even better: users found a star with a very strange light-curve, which had been dismissed as a false-positive signal by the algorithm. Upon inspection it turned out that… we had no idea what was going on. A paper, falsifying a bunch of hypothesis, was published. It was cool to see a popular paper about us not knowing. The star was called Taby’s star (after the astronomer who investigated it), and deemed “the most mysterious star in the galaxy”.

So there—an example of using graphs to do research and, what’s more, make it accessible to the public.

One Comment

  1. Peter Erwin says:

    It’s more commonly known now as “Boyajian’s Star” (the astronomer in question being named Tabetha Boyajian), or KIC 8462852 if you’re being overly pedantic.

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