Thursday, March 1, 2007

PlanetQuest Update

I received an email today from Dr. Laurance Doyle, who (among other things) serves as the President of PlanetQuest. PlanetQuest is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to inspire global participation in the discovery of planets.

Their goal is to launch a distributed computing project using the BOINC platform that I've blogged about here before. Their software--dubbed Collaboratory--will analyze data from telescopes focused on extremely dense star regions, such as the center of the galaxy in Sagittarius in the hopes of finding planets around other stars.

From their website:
Discovering a new delta Scuti star, for example, will help astronomers better understand the stability of stars; a new Cepheid variable star would help astronomers determine how far away stars are. Most exciting of all, you could discover a new planet—a never-before-seen world beyond our solar system! You will be credited for your discovery, and your find will be entered into the PlanetQuest catalog.

Dr. Doyle's email (which came in response to my donating money toward their work on the software) contained some information on the status of their work on the software. The information was long overdue, as they haven't done a very good job of keeping the public up-to-date on their progress (although they have responded to email requests for information). Dr. Doyle writes:

We have the eclipsing binary system classifier running very well, and are now interfacing the circum-binary planet discriminator with the the binary classifier. We'll soon be going straight onto the BOINC platform with this and at that time can release an alpha version of the Collaboratory. The beta should not be far behind with a ready number of testers interested in helping us, and we are shooting for this summer to release the beta test.

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