EVE Online players are helping astronomers search for real-world exoplanets

EVE Online players are continually looking to the stars thanks to its interstellar setting but now, thanks to a collaboration with Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), they can turn their hand to real astronomy.

EVE Online players are helping astronomers search for real-world exoplanets

As part of EVE Online’s second Project Discovery initiative, players can participate in aiding the research of real-life exoplanets. Working with Michel Mayor, the discoverer of the first ever exoplanet, EVE’s hundreds-of-thousands of players can help researchers crunch data and uncover even more planets in the Milky Way.

Players will help with the aid of exoplanet classification by analysing images and astronomical data directly from the CoRoT telescope archive. Data from the CoRoT telescope has, currently, led to the discovery of 37 exoplanets and the discovery of the seven planets in the Trappist-1 system were found using the same method CCP and MMOS are employing in EVE Online.

If you’re wondering why they don’t just stick this data into a computer and let it run, it’s a matter of scale –  there’s just too much information for one computer to crunch. By distributing the task across EVE Online’s huge player base, researchers can crack the data far faster – it also helps that EVE players are generally pretty interested in all things space…

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To mine through the data, players will analyse light information gathered by CoRoT. Ideally, researchers want to see any systematic changes in a star’s luminosity, helping indicate any celestial bodies in its orbit. This translates to players looking at light curve data from any one of 160,000 stars in CoRoT’s database and determining if there are any transitional planets present between the star and Earth.

Analysing the data may sound rather complicated for someone who’s generally used to managing their fictitious space empire but CCP has developed tools to help out. It’s all a bit complex to explain, but EVE’s community post helps clear things up.

This isn’t the first citizen science project that CCP has implemented into EVE Online. Last year over a hundred-thousand players helped classify 25 million proteins within human cells, adding them to the Human Protein Atlas in the process.

Beyond the warm, fuzzy feeling of having contributed to a worthy cause, EVE Online players will receive in-game bonuses for taking part in the programme. Rewards take the form of points, given out on the basis of completing analysis and how accurate said analysis is. These points help you level up inside Project Discovery, which in turn grants you access to a new hull skin. You’ll also gain larger, more noteworthy rewards for level milestones within Project Discovery too.

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Games, and those who play them, have been utilised for citizen science projects in the past. CCP’s own Project Discovery is quite notable, but Sony’s “Folding @ Home” ([email protected]) initiative on the PlayStation 3 allowed millions of PS3 owners to use their console to crunch protein folding computations. The project, which lasted five years (although [email protected] still exists on other platforms) saw over 15 million users contribute over 100 million hours of computing to the [email protected] initiative.

Project Discovery’s second phase is available to all EVE Online players. While aiding the discovery of planets in our galaxy may not be quite as immediately beneficial as protein folding or analysis it certainly is more exciting. Who knows, maybe the next truly habitable New Earth will be found by an EVE Online player.

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