You can help scientists discover new exoplanets in EVE Online

You can help scientists discover new exoplanets in EVE Online
Credit: CCP

Many of us dream of exploring space and the wonders hidden in the vastness of our galaxy. Entertainment based on space-travel can perhaps give us a glimpse of the experiences future generations might encounter when testing the limits of human discovery. But sadly this feeling will always remain artificial for current inhabitants of Earth… or will it?

The same day NASA announced the discovery of new exoplanets that could support life, the Icelandic indie game developer CCP announced that players of EVE Online will join the search for new exoplanets.

In collaboration with University of Reykjavík, University of Geneva and Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS) and Michel Mayor — winner of  2017 Wolf Prize for Physics and discoverer of the first exoplanet — CCP developers have employed a mini-game called Project Discovery to discover new exoplanets.

The size of EVE Online’s universe is astounding, so it can take players a few minutes to simply travel between two places in the game. To pass the time during their voyage, players can access Project Discovery and help scientists sift through real-world astronomical data and identify possible exoplanets based on the criteria provided by scientists.

Once enough players reach a consensus on how to classify certain data, it’ll be sent to the scientists at the University of Geneva for further analysis, saving them a copious amount of time. There are high hopes for this project, especially since CCP’s first try at introducing “citizen science” to EVE Online was a success.

Credit: CCP
Project Discovery mini-game for identifying patterns in human cells.

EVE Online players helped scientists analyze patterns in images of human cells to better understand the role of proteins in the human body for the Human Protein Atlas. Players submitted over 25 million classifications through the mini-game in a relatively short amount of time.

It is perhaps not surprising that the tightly-knit player community of EVE Online has proved the perfect group for implementing “citizen science”. EVE Online is a highly difficult MMORGP to master and its open-ended gameplay requires great patience and resourcefulness.

EVE fans got more information at the annual EVE Fanfest in Reykjavík where Michel Mayor did a full presentation on the search for exoplanets. Players will be helping out by looking at luminosity curves, that represent the change in a star’s luminosity when a planet passes in front of it, and will receive a small amount of in-game currency for their effort. The mini-game will be rolling out later this year.

For the moment, EVE Online seems to be the best place for wannabe-space-explorers to indulge in fantasy while simultaneously making real-world astronomical discoveries.

However, the best part of discoveries must be the possibility of etching your name in the stars. TNW reached out to CCP to ask whether players could name the planets that they discover. Ned Coker,  Senior PR and Social Media Lead at CCP, said that “Nothing has been decided on the naming conventions yet, should a exoplanet be discovered through Project Discovery/EVE Online. We have however seen many players joke about possibly found planets being named Jita, after the main trade hub solar system in the game.”


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