2 probable planets found by people like you
An artist's rendition of a planet transiting in front of its star, which Planet Hunters participants may have identified. The more distant planet has not yet been detected, but is thought to exist.
September 22nd, 2011
08:42 AM ET

2 probable planets found by people like you

With the internet, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. in astrophysics to help find new worlds outside our solar system.

For the first time, new planet candidates have been identified with the help of the public’s analysis of NASA data. Anyone can join this effort, called Planet Hunters, for free and start helping real astronomers weed through data that might signal a never-before-seen planet.

Computer algorithms that the pros use do the job of sorting through data from deep space with precision and speed, but sometimes humans can do it better.

“A lot of times, we don’t know to anticipate in advance something unusual in the data. And so that’s clearly where the Planet Hunters, the public, [have] been coming in,” said Debra Fischer, professor of astronomy at Yale University and co-founder of Planet Hunters.

So far, there are about 40,000 users of Planet Hunters across the U.S. and about 90 other countries. It’s intuitive and simple enough that even a child could use it. Teachers are already using it in the classroom, Fischer said.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for even children to become involved, and to really learn what the scientific process is, what the scientific method is, and that thrill of discovery at an age where they still have the opportunity to make decisions about their future” said Natalie Batalha, co-investigator for NASA's Kepler mission, which has discovered more than 1,200 candidate planets so far.

All you have to do is sign up with Planet Hunters and start answering questions about graphs, which represent data about light from distant stars. The website guides you through what to look for – the dips and v-shapes corresponding to a dimming of light may mean a planet has transited, or passed in front of a star during a certain time period.

In the first test batch of data, users had classified about 3,500 transits. Fischer enlisted undergraduates to help look at every single one of them, passing the best ones on to the graduate students who would pass them to the rest of the team, and they boiled down the list to 40 that looked the most like the signatures of planets. Of the 10 that they sent to the Kepler group, two turned out to be good candidates for planets.

One is a “super Earth” with a radius about twice that of our planet. Without knowing its mass, scientists can’t say anything about its composition. The other is a Saturn-sized object, Fischer said.

Computer algorithms had seen both of these celestial objects, but had misclassified them.

Planet Hunters had also identified the recently-announced planet nicknamed Tatooine, the first planet confirmed to orbit two stars at once. The citizen science effort helped find it four months ago, independent of the NASA Kepler team.

The Kepler team had actually published a catalog of possible eclipsing binary systems in March, so technically the pros were still first. But Batalha says it’s not such a cut-throat competition.

“It doesn’t matter who was first,” Batalha said. “Those discoveries were being made, and that process – going through that process and experiencing that thrill – that’s what’s important.”

The Planet Hunters expert team, a collaboration between astronomers at Yale, the University of Oxford and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, just sent the next top 10 over the Kepler, and it looks like seven may hold up as candidate planets, Fischer said.

Scientists have confirmed the existence of more than 680 planets outside of our solar system, according to NASA's PlanetQuest website. In order to be more certain about the two new candidates from the Planet Hunters, scientists need to use a method called Doppler spectroscopy, a method of measuring the mass of these objects.

Stars with planets appear to wobble toward and away from the observer - meaning a change in radial velocity - and this effect is larger when the planet is either bigger or closer to the star. Measuring light from the nearby star and its radial velocity helps scientists determine whether an object is indeed a planet, as well as how dense it is.

Fischer is fairly confident that the two new candidates spotted by Planet Hunters are “bona-fide” planets.

“There are 4 million classifications, and out of that came two planets so far. There will be there more, but still, it gives you some sense of the scale of the problem." Fischer said. "It’s a lottery ticket, I guess."

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space
soundoff (120 Responses)
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  2. recombinant human growth hormone treatment

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    April 14, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
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    March 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  4. Danilo Waud

    I read the Book of Shadows years ago when I had to catalogue it for a school library I was at. I had to look inside it for the summary and I read it at work in one sitting (for work purposes *wink*) I was hooked and spent days after contacting all the schools so I could borrow the entire series. Not one school had the whole set. LOL I then just purchased the entire series. It brought me into reading YA books, which are sometimes quite good. Sweep was a very good YA series and believe me I have read MANY. In fact I did think it could have been better for adults but it is what it is. I wish you much success on the movie and new series. (Which I haven't read the new book yet) As to your comment about people hating the idea of a movie without reading the books, my son is 16 and thinks any book on supernatural is "just like Harry Potter" Many teens are like that and now with Twilight it is the same thing. Twilight is like Harry Potter? HUH? LOL I liken the whole thing to "readers" and "non readers" Non readers just read certain books when they become "popular" Real readers appreciate each and every book for the different story they tell. Sweep is unique in it's story, while countless similar books are popping up now, yours was created years ago. That's my 2 cents anyways. Also I just recently read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness a good read and highly recommended. Have a great day!

    December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  5. Abdelwahab elSadek Salem

    Dear scientists, notice that the picture of a lot of flowers came from the picture of the sun. Try to search for the law behind that. Also think of the body of the living being as a body and a head. They are two balls, one is bigger than the other as if we are before the sun and earth. Try to search for the laws behind that as a creation made by God. Regards.

    December 1, 2011 at 7:24 am |
  6. deca durabolin

    Hola lightyears.blogs.cnn.com. Encontré su sitio web a través de Google en la búsqueda de una cuestión similar, su sitio web tiene aquí arriba. Parece bueno. He marcado en mis favoritos de Google para volver más tarde.

    November 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Guglielmo

      Planet Dygan-09. Whole thing smells like a peeeld, boiled egg. In fact, the surface looks like it, too. Except the kind of egg where it's been sitting in the water too long, and when you remove the shell, you get bits and pieces of the white, too. It's a pockmarked planet. Covered in snow, ice, and that pervasive fart smell.The natives are not natives at all, but human colonists. Mostly descended from smugglers, a group of whom were deposited unceremoniously some two-hundred years ago. There's enough small game, mostly white mole-rats that tunnel underground and taste a little worse than boiled leather, as well as soft moss. Not surprisingly, the planet has very little in the way of culinary tradition.

      September 11, 2012 at 2:11 am |
  7. Phil

    "by people like you"... Yeah, we're amateur astronomers...this is what we do. Lots of things are found by us. Hate to make it sound easy, but it is. Just simple observation.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  8. hajun

    wow!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 6:50 am |
  9. mcool123

    i'm bored

    September 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • bruce

      They found the DEATH STAR.

      It searches for blue planets to suck the water out of, then it discards the waste as 1 meter sized chunks of debris.

      September 25, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Alex

      HA!

      October 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  10. erich2112x

    Earth is #1!

    September 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  11. Josh

    How can they label a planet as being "Earth like" if they don't know its composition? Instead of being "Earlth like", IMHO, without any confirmed info on its composition, it could just as well be "Mars like", "Venus like", "Mercury like", or even "Pluto like".

    When they label a planet as being "Earth like", they are painting a picture of a planet with an N and O2 atmosphere, and liquid water oceans, and dry land masses.

    September 23, 2011 at 9:11 am |
    • hmm

      Yes, but it's round! So maybe that accounts for something.

      September 23, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Sean

      They are referring to the size and distance from the sun.

      September 23, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • mcool123

      hey

      September 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  12. Judith

    the planet has not really been discovered yet

    September 23, 2011 at 5:27 am |
  13. Sal

    No, you have it all wrong, science IS child's play for a specific task, and I'm a scientist. Anybody with proper training can do "science"

    People that are very intelligent develop models but in reality. Science would benefit greatly from these sort of things like crowd source...in fact, if more people donated their computer time when not used, and played games like the protein folding and used the program to hunt for planets, we'd probably accelerate discoveries eveyr year by a factor of 20 because the amount of data would increase exponentially...we wouldn't even need more scientists, just enough for modeling, then computers, and the people doing the work.

    We could have a scientific revolution.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm |
    • Sal

      So in other words, not anyone can develop the "frame" or design the game by which there is a common "language" or "format" so everyone can compare notes based on the format, that's where you need a scientist.

      But anybody that tells you this work is "child's play" in science has more of an interest in his ego than the science.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
      • Sal

        Sorry, it is child's play, the distinction is in saying that this particular work is more of child's play than other science. That's incorrect. Once you are properly trained in one task and get the hang of it, no college degree necessary in orther words, it becomes as easy as playing a video game. In fact, it's often far more repetitive and boring.

        September 22, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • John

      I agree anyone can collect data and say 'Here!" With space being as large as it is an extra pair of eyes looking upward is huge. Also many hands make light work. I would really love to see more people get involved and jump start this scientific revolution. COME PEOPLE I want to visit Mars within my lifetime!

      September 23, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  14. Dave

    The only way "people like me" would discover a planet is if it was on a woman's chest. A much better view than the sky.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Auth

      well, i guess i'm probably out of synch with evoneyre else and so just to prove it a little more than you don't know what i'm talking about, here come a few blips from TERROR PLANET 666666.666666an cliche evil forboding hums on anyones deepspace sonar (sonar? radar? what century are we in man, the five hundred and sixth century!) telling anyone so foolish as to approach that here is a blasted space, filled with the remnants from a thousand dead religions and their thousand forked tongue/multi-horned/leaking eyes devils and demons. billions of now out-of-work evil spirits, their former religions blown away by the all-reaching ever knowing gods of the new truth. devils, demons, satans methusalahs and all their kind slowly found themselves to be without terror, former priests and worshippers had abandoned their old faiths and old gods, and with them went their evils, all to terror planet 666. if you want to feel guilty, set a time-warper-drive to their radar sonar sector and pray the new truth doesn't skin you alive.cower with fear all you faithless!

      August 3, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  15. fluidphysics

    The sun is literary freezing, more and more sunspots appear year over year.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • marty

      Sunspots occur in 11 year cycles and have done so for as long as mankind was able to observe them.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
  16. Abdelwahab elSadek Salem

    I recalled something about the space. So this message should be considered by all space organizations. One day in the year 1980 I was closing my eyes searching for images. It happened after I attained spiritual experience under the title Kundaline Yoga. I saw a big golden ring with two tiny stars inside. It appears like the living cell with divided nucleus. In the next day while walking I saw a book about stars and I bought it. At home I browsed it. To my surprise I saw the same picture among the pictures of galaxies by the name sounds as R-R Sliak. Why what ? I don't know. Please try to search this info.

    September 22, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  17. Questionable

    Somewhere in the multiverse I actually rule these planets

    September 22, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  18. Kranix

    "Arblus, look! It's Unicron!"

    September 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  19. YahtzeeGirl

    What a wonderful discovery, I think that is wonderful. Now my only regret is that I will not live long enough to ever see another planet..

    September 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  20. brad

    nice, it's good to see that people are engaging in bettering the human race, rather than chowing down on corndogs with michelle bachman

    September 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  21. Pax

    Wow...super surprised on how ignorant and close minded still are...to the racist people, do us all a favor and eliminate yourself from society in someway, that would do us all a favor and maybe we'd live in a better world.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  22. Abdelwahab elSadek Salem

    I am happy with this discovery. So I say: One day all the globe will be one unit with one flag. All peoples will be in great union under Super High Government. They will need to invade the space to extend the life there. As a start the need to be able to live in Venus and Mars. Then they can get over the vast distances in Space. Amen

    September 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • ????

      You be nuts man. We are all going to get into a mega nuclear war over the last remaining dribs of oil in the 2060s and mankind will be toast.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
      • dizzyloot

        you sir are an idiot, we will not go that far unless something bad happens like in ww2

        September 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Abdelwahab elSadek Salem

      I hope of any one who wants to comment to be polite. Don't use such words as idiot or nut. We are not in a bar. We are in the alter of science. Don't you see that the globe is like a small town? If you don't feel affection to the people in Japan or in Somalia you are not a human being.

      September 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  23. Maude

    All planets,suns, moons are atoms comprising god. I if you could travel trillions of miles away from the heavenly glaxies, you will began to see the figure of god. Appearently earth,one of the atoms, is situated near the anus.

    September 22, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Abdelwahab elSadek Salem

      One day before 30 years this idea came to my mind. Later I knew that God is above all figuration. All what we say about him returns to embody in our world.

      September 22, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  24. Alfonso Merialies Lopez

    Hi,guys
    To all respected personel of the NASA and all the staff in the NASA gov. all ter Planet Hunter its a gift. knowledge is
    the secret that given to us.according to Generation, the star that made 1st [] are Orion, and the Pleiades,constellation of star. ask[] ex.// can we bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of the Orion? can we clear this for the [] hunter ,good luck to everyone keep moving,,,,thanks to the Department of navy and Marines and all the reserve 0800 ..God bless us,,,

    September 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  25. Selim Rana Shelly

    Need more analysis,thanks NASA for data

    September 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Broccoli Nibbler

      And neither of them were Niburu or Planet X. : D

      We're all gonna live!

      September 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Erika

      questione di gusti non puoi dire quale oiloptgia di gioco pi bella, pertanto ti dico che ai puristi e cio' agli amanti della serie r.evil piacciono di pi i primi pubblicati quelli zeppi di enigmi e difficolt alle stelle. A me piacerebbe giocare ad un r.evil bilanciato tra enigmi ma quelli tosti e ben fatti e azione ma senza sottovalutare la spettacolarit ecco io questo mi aspetterei da un buon gioco sopratutto da una serie cos importante come r.evil

      April 8, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  26. kelo73

    look guys, these are just 2 planets. we would prolly be dead before steping on another planet anyways.lol maybe other life out there would come here to have a cup of coffee...

    September 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Tha Chikin

      None of us might ever set foot on another planet but, if there is intelligent life; we may be able to communicate. It might take a few years to send a message back and forth but, it can definitely be done. ;)

      September 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  27. Luuur of the Planet Omicron Persei 8

    If I find a planet, it is mine. Finders keepers.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Dave

      It's spelled Lrrr. His wife's name is Ndnd. They don't have vowels on Omicron Persei 8.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
      • Luuur of the Planet Omicron Persei 8

        I will destroy you!

        September 22, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
      • Skipper

        Lots of vowels in the name of a planet that has no vowels.

        September 23, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  28. planet yet to be discovery

    I find a new planet and its perfect for the teabagger, I call it planet douchebag. It be wonderful for them there, they will love it.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  29. Slobodan

    Only two Planets? There must be some more ...

    September 22, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  30. ryan

    this is what happens when you make a facebook page for NASA, you get all these retarded children posting crap

    September 22, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  31. robert pollak

    get your heads uot of our uranus and help this country get out the mess were in

    September 22, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Phil

      When properly pronounced "urinus" the joke isn't funny. It's not "your anus"...when you say it wrong you sound dumb.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  32. JOHN DOE

    the planet is goin to be gone by 2012 our government is terrible

    September 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  33. JOHN DOE

    you guys dont no anything the planets going to blow up in 2012

    September 22, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • willy23

      you really dont buy that 2012 crap do you its just gonna be like y2k was and when that day finally arrives BAM and nothing.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
      • Thomas

        I like your thinking. Lets have sexual contact now. please.

        September 22, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
      • Cedar Rapids

        "its just gonna be like y2k was and when that day finally arrives BAM and nothing."

        I agree with 2012 being nonsense but dont diss the hard work us computer professionals put in to make sure Y2K did go off with little going wrong.

        September 22, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  34. power

    Since they found a super planet theythe govt should put all white people on on the new fresh planeta and leave black people on earth.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • mother earth

      Really, how about this, let take all the white male to that new planet and leave all white female for us. Sound a good plan to u.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:10 am |
      • power

        Yea that might work

        September 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
      • Dave

        We can just leave you the fat ugly white chicks that y'all like to date.

        September 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Uuuh...

      Seriously.. Is the world ONLY black and white to you? Did you forget the MANY other ethnicities there are on this planet?

      September 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
      • Thomas

        I don't think you're playing along with the joke

        September 22, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • ready

      Yup, works for africa. (sarcasm)

      September 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
      • Suevonne

        Normally I'm against killing but this article sauhlgtered my ignorance.

        October 10, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  35. mcool123

    i am very bored!!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Eric Cartman

      You sound like an automatic-reply bot.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  36. trish ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Hey guys, will you visit HelpFaye.ORG , a friend of mine is fighting for her life.. Thanks

    September 22, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Cedar Rapids

      so who is this friend? how long have you known them? what are they suffering from?

      oh i forgot, its all a con, silly me.

      September 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Phil

      Trish,

      Please visit my friends at lemmonparty.org and meatspin.com

      They need your help too.

      September 26, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  37. mcool123

    why isn't people not replying to my comments?

    September 22, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • dan

      Jeez man....get a life.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:39 am |
      • mcool123

        why don't you!!!!!

        September 22, 2011 at 10:42 am |
      • dan

        Um, you're the one spamming the article with useless information.

        September 22, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • pirate

      "why isn't people not replying to my comments?"?????? isn't not??? Try learning to articulate your thoughts in a manner an educated person might understant!

      September 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  38. mcool123

    expert I hope you were not talking about me?

    September 22, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  39. mcool123

    poeple are just too quiet!!!!

    September 22, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  40. uponof

    o.o

    September 22, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • mcool123

      what?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  41. expert

    people like you??? racist much???

    September 22, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • mcool123

      who are you talking to?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Lewis

      You aren't a person?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  42. dan

    "Help real astronomers"? They are just regular people with bigger toys.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • Sean

      And collage degrees.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  43. mcool123

    why isn't anybody saying anything?

    September 22, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • expert

      you suck

      September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
      • mcool123

        what? You suck

        September 22, 2011 at 10:12 am |
      • g

        what kind of reply is that?!

        September 23, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • Tyrone

      Mcool, go out tonight and see if you can find Uranus....

      September 22, 2011 at 10:54 am |
      • mcool123

        i couldn't find it

        September 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  44. Bill

    Must be a new idea to reduce the government work force, get people to do work for free.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • mcool123

      Bill I agree with what you just said

      September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
      • Alyssa

        Scusate l'intervento che esula dall'argomento proposto ma verroi sottoporVi queste domande:Perch sono state eliminate queste funzioni dal sito?:I voti nei post sono stati eliminati, perch ?Penso che se un intervento risulta essere maleducato o insolente, sottolineando la disapprovazione degli altri utenti si instauri in chi l ha lasciato un timore o una riflessione su quanto ha scritto.Altrimenti, a meno che non ci sia una supervisione accurata degli amministratori, essendo il messaggio anonimo si potrebbero verificare degli abusi. Bannarli servirebbe a poco essendo l iscrizione anonima. Questo senza nulla togliere agli iscritti che mi sembra siano molto corretti e responsabili.Un altra cosa, molto pi importante di questa, ho notato che non pi possibile scrivere recensioni. E una cosa momentanea o c stata qualche decisione in merito? Sarebbe un peccato perch molto utile sapere com' un determinato gioco e come viene considerato

        April 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • mcool123

      How do you know this knid of information?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  45. mcool123

    someone please say something

    September 22, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • West coast

      Give it about another hour, mcool123. People on the west coast are just getting into work. They'll all get their coffees and what nots, sit at their desk, realize they don't wanna start work, and they'll start trolling the boards.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  46. DD

    This is a cool project. I've done several hours. I feel better about killing time with this than with Angry Birds!!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  47. Bill

    For 3D HTML5 kepler planet hunter graph see http://www.corehtml5.com.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  48. erich2112x

    You don't want people like me finding planets, believe me, you don't.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  49. Pete

    Kind of like that TV show Antiques Roadshow. Here we see a whole 30-minute show of people who had things worth big bucks just sitting around up in their attics. Nevermind the fact that those clips were cherrypicked from thousands of nothings.

    The obvious analogy is that here we are told of two people that found something significant. Compared to how many that never did and never will find anything?

    September 22, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Spike

      Hey, if you got the time to type text on a forum, you can also help science. Either way you earn no money, but the second method helps you get past St. Peter.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • Dave

      Nah, not two people... the images are part of a database- likely that hundreds of people marked the image as unique, necessitating a second look.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  50. kdoke

    Cool.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  51. Nuttocks

    I found a planet in my pants, but NASA won't return my calls.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • chibidw

      More like a dwarf planet.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:36 am |
      • Laurel Kornfeld

        Dwarf planets are planets too, in spite of the ridiculous resolution by four percent of the IAU.

        September 22, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Pluto

      Sure that wasn't a dwarf planet?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:40 am |
      • mcool123

        you got some crazy ideas!!!!!

        September 22, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • mcool123

      lol i agree

      September 22, 2011 at 10:15 am |
      • Logan

        mcool123... such a n00b!!

        September 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
      • mcool123

        that's what you are

        September 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • yeti37

      no planet. just a black hole that never sees light.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Bawlzak

      If 9000 people join this organization I will scream "ITS OVER 9000!!!!!"

      September 22, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

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