Planet Hunters Project

Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)

Planet Hunters Project
To analyze patterns in, and classify light curves of stars collected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft
To compare the occurrence rates of different types of events captured by the Kepler data
To analyze physical trends/relationships in stars’ physical properties based on Kepler data
To research the technological methods used by the Kepler spacecraft to search for exoplanets
To review the contributions of citizen scientists to discovering new exoplanets hidden in the Kepler data
To directly contribute to the scientific research of ‘hunting’ for exoplanets by analyzing real scientific data
Setting up a Planet Hunter account
Classifying light curves of stars
Recording characteristics of classified stars
Analyzing collected star information from Kepler data
Researching the impact of Kepler technology on the hunt for exoplanets
Reviewing the impact of citizen scientists’ contributions on the hunt for exoplanets
Nov. 28: setting up an account in Planet Hunters; submitting Screenshot (‘Sign-Up’) to Blackboard
Dec. 1, 11pm: classifying 1 star’s light curve (minimum) in Planet Hunters; submitting Word file (‘FirstStar’) with two screenshots to Blackboard
Dec. 11, 11pm: classifying 30 stars’ light curves (minimum) in Planet Hunters; submitting Excel file
(‘Table-Raw’) to Blackboard
Dec. 22, 6pm: submitting final project: Excel file (‘Table-Final’) and Word file (‘Report’) in Blackboard
(These are smaller sub-deadlines to be met during the project, to encourage you to stay on track. Marks will not
be given for completing the tasks on time, but small deductions – from 1% to 4% of the project’s grade – WILL be
made if they are NOT completed on time, to meet these sub-deadlines.)
IMPORTANT NOTE: all required files should be submitted ONLY via Blackboard in the PROJECTS section, and
NOT by email.
(You can keep making unlimited submissions within the same assignment link, as you continue to
add more files for each sub-deadline.)
Emailed projects will NOT be accepted for grading.
Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)

What is Planet Hunters?

The citizen science project is first described in our Lesson 9: Projects in Astronomy.
The project is located here:
Background Information:
First review some background information on exoplanets themselves, through this short video:
Video: Science Behind The News: Extrasolar Planets (5 mins)

Then, read all the sections (tabs) in the SCIENCE section of the Planet Hunters website:
Read: Planet Hunters: Science
(Read all sections: Our Mission, Your Task, Transits, Light Curves, Simulations, FAQ, Discoveries &
Part 1: Joining Planet Hunters
Joining Planet Hunters is very easy and fast. From the main website, click on the SIGN UP link (near
top-right corner), which will open up a new window for you to create your account.
Make sure to create your account using your
first and last name, as it appears in our course in
Blackboard, with the following format:
Username: FirstnameLastname
(my example: TatianaPaulin)
Currently there are no group ‘projects’ or ‘collections’ for us to join together, in Planet Hunters, so you
will be completing your classification work individually, from your account, and then submitting the
appropriate documentation of it (screenshots for some items, and the table of star characteristics for the
30 light curves that you will analyze).

Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)
To confirm that you have joined Planet Hunters by the specified sub-deadline, you will take a
screenshot of the website – after having logged in with your username – and submit it (by the subdeadline) in the project’s submission link in the ASSIGNMENTS section, in Blackboard. (Name of the
screenshot file to submit:
The username screenshot must show 3 key items, as my example demonstrates below:
1: the planet hunters’ URL in the browser’s address bar
2: your username, logged-in
3: date and time stamp, on your computer (this may appear in different locations, depending on your
computer platform/settings/etc)

Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)

Part 2: Classifying Light Curves in Planet Hunters

Planet Hunters has several training tools for you to learn how to analyze and classify the stars’ light
curves collected by the Kepler spacecraft, in search of planetary transits in front of the parent star.
Make sure to review all of these training tools before starting classifications.
Mini-Course (5 information slides)
From your Profile section, click on the Launch Mini Course link (right side of the screen).
Video: PH2 Tour: Step-by-Step Tour of Planet Hunters (7 mins)
Online Tutorial
This interactive tutorial can be brought up at any time, and usually starts up automatically when you first
arrive at Planet Hunters, and/or when you go to the ‘Classify’ section. The screenshot below shows
how to bring it up at any time.
Spotter’s Guide
This is a collection of some common types of light curves seen in Planet Hunters, with explanation of
their features. Click on the ‘Help’ button, above the ‘Tutorial’ button (in the screenshot above), to bring
up the guide (scroll down to see it).

Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)
After you have familiarized yourself with how to analyze and then classify light curves, which will be
randomly drawn from the massive data banks collected by the Kepler spacecraft, you can start
classifying them. In addition to completing at least 30 classifications, you will also record each star’s
information (characteristics) in the corresponding Excel spreadsheet, called ‘Table’, for further analysis


The star information will be displayed only once, immediately after you submit your classification, and
will be displayed on a
Summary Page like this:
(Note that the red section on the left is a ‘tip’ section, that will show up show-casing different star
features, after each submission, designed to help users become familiar with more different light curve
types as they continue their work in the project; it is NOT necessarily related to the specific star you just
Star Information for your classification is listed at the bottom of this page; record it into the excel
spreadsheet, one star per each row.
In the ‘
Classification?’ column in the excel sheet you are asked to make a judgment – to the best of
your ability – on the
main type of star/event you have just classified, based on the comments already
submitted by other users for this same star, as well as your own classification of it, in the ‘
About This Star
’ section in the middle. These steps – completing the Star Information record in the
excel spreadsheet – must be done during the active classification/submission stage, before you move
on to your ‘Next Subject’, as that information won’t be easily brought up again. (If you missed recording
the information from this stage, simply classify another new star.)
When finished
classifying light curves (in Planet Hunters) and recording the star information (in the
Excel spreadsheet), hit the yellow ‘
Next Subject’ button, at the bottom-right corner of this screen, to
Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)
move on to the next star. (Note that you if you do not click on the ‘Next Subject’ button, after
classifying each star, its light curve will not be saved to the ‘Recents’ section of your profile, for later
viewing and capturing screenshots.)
In a separate tab or web browser window, open the ‘Profile’ section of Planet Hunters, to see the most
recent light curve classified, for your light curve screenshot. (You may need to refresh the profile page
after each submitted classification, to see the most recent light curve there.) Take a
screenshot of the
new light curve, paste into your spreadsheet, crop it down just to the light curve, resize (reduce) it
down, and ‘float’ it over the last cell in the row, under the ‘Screenshot of Light Curve’ title.
For meeting the
1st star classification completed sub-deadline, you must submit
two items to confirm a completed classification:
1. Screenshot showing submitted classification (see example at right).
2. Screenshot showing the corresponding light curve for
this same star (see example at right).
Paste both screenshots into a single Word file, called
‘First-Star’, and submit the Word file itself.
(You can make unlimited submissions to your project in the Assignments section in Blackboard,
building on previously-submitted files.)
Your final completed project should have at least 30 rows of star information, and corresponding light
Note: our project will run as a ‘blind contest’ this time, for the title of most light curve classifications
made in Planet Hunters. Because currently there is no possibility for us all to join in a ‘group project’ in
the website, to see each member’s contributions, the submissions will be tallied individually by me
during the evaluation stage, and the winner announced at the end, with a small bonus mark on the
project (up to 1 out of 30). ‘The sky is the limit’ – as the expression goes – on how many classifications
(above the minimum 30 required for the project) you can make; the more you make, the more you
contribute to science!
For meeting the 30 star classifications completed sub-deadline, make a copy of your Table excel file,
containing at least 30 star classifications (completed rows), rename it
‘Table – raw’, and submit it in the
assignment submission link in Blackboard.
For the remainder of the project, continue working in the Table excel spreadsheet (
‘Table – final’ – final
excel sheet to be submitted), where you will also create additional charts, to be submitted as one final
file, as well as the written report (word file named
Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)

Part 3: Analyzing Event Rates

In the Table excel spreadsheet, create a new tab (‘sheet’), and change its name to ‘Events’. On this
sheet, you will create a chart to summarize the occurrence of different
types of events in the light
curves that you classified (from Part 2), as categorized in the ‘
Classification?’ column. It can be a
simple pie chart, showing the total counts of each type of event that you’ve encountered in your
particular light curves. Also answer these questions:
What was the most common type of event?
What was the least common type of event?
How many planetary transit events, if any, were present?
What was the rate of transits occurring? (i.e. number of transits over total number of all events)
What conclusion about exoplanets (either their existence and/or their detection) can you make,
based on this rate?
Make sure the chart is properly labelled, with a title, and a clear legend.
Part 4: Investigating Physical Trends of Stars
Now we will collect data on other aspects of the star data collected by the Kepler spacecraft, from the
NASA Exoplanet Archive:
Table of Confirmed Planets:
You need to record the following pieces of information for 20 (twenty) stars from this table, chosen
randomly by you (and spanning the full table ideally, to sample a larger collection of stars):
Host Name (2nd column)
Effective Temp. (in Kelvin) (4th-last column)
Stellar Mass (in solar masses) (3rd-last column)
(Do not include the +/- values of error-margins, in your table.)
(Tip: you can also ‘delete’ the rest of the columns from your view, by clicking on the red-boxed
‘x’ in
top-right corner of each column heading, until only the necessary columns are left in your view on this
website, while you’re extracting the data from the website and copying it into your own Excel sheet.)
Then, in the Table excel spreadsheet, create another new tab, and call it ‘
Trends’. On this sheet, you
will create a graph (graphing data points, on x vs y axis; NOT a pie chart or histogram this time), with a
title and clearly-labelled axes, to investigate further any trends that might be present in the collected
data. Specifically, make this graph, of these two physical properties of the stars you classified:
Graph 1: Mass (x-axis) vs Temperature (y-axis)
Scroll to the right,
all the way to the end

Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)
Then answer these questions:
How many data points did you plot in total?
Was there any discernible trend (relationship/dependence), between these physical properties
of stars, in your graph?
If there was, what do you think may be the physical cause for this trend in stars? (You may
need to do some further research into the physical make-up and properties of stars.)
(Word count range for the written answer for Part 4: half-page to one full page, double-spaced.)
NOTE: if you need help with plotting and analyzing graphs in Excel, drop by the Math Centre at
Humber College (both campuses), for help:
Part 5: Summarizing Technological Methods of Kepler
Summarize, briefly (1-2 paragraphs), the planetary detection method used by the Kepler spacecraft.
What are the advantages and disadvantages (challenges) of detecting exoplanets with this specific
method? What has been the Kepler spacecraft’s impact on our search for – and changing
understanding of – exoplanets so far, in comparison to other technologies and methods used for
exoplanet hunting before it? (How did it change our view of what exoplanets are like?) What is the main
reason or cause of such an impact, behind the Kepler mission?
(Word count range for the written answer for Part 5: one full page, double-spaced.)
Part 6: Reviewing Contributions of Citizen Scientists in Planet Hunters
Summarize the discoveries made by citizen scientists with Planet Hunters so far, and how they have
advanced the scientific research of searching for exoplanets in our galaxy. (You need to discuss at
least 2 different and specific discoveries made by them, through Planet Hunters.) Were there any
discoveries, made by citizen scientists, of new types of objects and/or events that were otherwise
missed by the computer software analyzing the same data, and/or Kepler team scientists?
(Tip: review
the Science, and Blog, section of the Planet Hunters website, for past and most recent discoveries.)
(Word count range for the written answer for Part 6: one to two full pages, double-spaced.)
Part 7: Personal Reflection
Provide a final personal reflection (half-page minimum, 1 full page maximum, double-spaced) on your
participation in this citizen science project. Some possible – but not the only ones necessarily –
questions to consider are:
Were there any surprises for you along the way, during this project? What were your most
and least favourite parts of this project?

Planet Hunters Project SCIE 3200: Citizen Science (Online)
How do you think your contributions to Planet Hunters may be helpful to science?
How do you think this project (in our course) could be improved further?
Part 8: References
Provide all sources used during your research in a final reference section, in APA format.
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Last Updated on March 17, 2021