With the recently announced discovery of seven exoplanets by NASA, a lot of amateur astronomers and general nerds are very enthusiastic. CCP announced today that they will be tapping into that fervor with new additions to Project Discovery. Project Discovery is a citizen-science initiative brought to EVE Online in 2016; it’s initial goal was to assist in the classification of cell samples for the Human Protein Atlas. CCP has apparently been eager to continue to leverage it’s playerbase for more scientific pursuits.
“We were thrilled to see the successes of our first foray into citizen science, in which EVE players have been voracious contributors to the database of the Human Protein Atlas,” said Andie Nordgren, EVE’s Executive Producer. “In searching for the next dataset for our massive player community to tackle, the stars aligned for players to have the opportunity to directly contribute to the search for new planets with a world-renowned scientific team. Real people around the world collaborating in a virtual universe to explore the real universe is the stuff science fiction, and soon science fact, is made of.”
This announcement is especially exciting coming off the back of the NASA press release in which the discovery of seven exoplanets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. TRAPPIST-1, also known as 2MASS J23062928-0502285, is an ultracool dwarf star located 39.13 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. This system has a whole host of interesting characteristics. The proximity of the planets to one another would make it easy to observe nearby planets from the surface, even with the naked eye. The system’s star is a scant 0.08 solar masses, in simple terms this translates to a much slower reaction at the star’s core; this translates to a much longer lifetime until the star runs out of fuel and implodes. The estimated lifetime of this star is at least 1 trillion years. This places the star as potentially much older than ours. For context, Earth’s sun has a total lifetime of roughly 10 billion years, and is at least 4.5 billion years old. What this means for TRAPPIST-1 is that the planets within could be much older than Earth. This doesn’t necessarily mean a more advanced stage of ecological development is guaranteed. We’ll have to wait for further analysis of the planet’s and their atmospheres to start making estimates about that. This small size also means that liquid water could survive on many of these planets due to how cool the star ‘burns’, this in itself is also a key indicator in the search for extraterrestrial life.
The new addition to Project Discovery, coming some time in 2017, will focus on the search for exoplanets. In other words, CCP and EVE players will be assisting in the search for Earth-like planets outside of out solar system. As these planets are the current best hope in the search for alien life, this new data processing power will be a welcome addition to the project. Who knows, maybe EVE players will become indispensable to the discovery of a new strain of life? It will be interesting to see how CCP can effectively gamify this new addition, I for one can’t wait for more.