An English gas worker, who downloaded astronomical data from the Exoplanet Orbit Database and combed through it in his free time, has been recognized as the discoverer of four exoplanets:

Peter Jalowiczor has just helped discover a planet around which it [extraterrestrial life] may exist.

Quite a claim for a Rotherham gas worker who has never owned a telescope in his life – but a claim which has been confirmed by a team of astronomical experts from the University of California.

For Peter, of Masbrough, has been named by the centre’s Lick-Carnegie Planet Search Team as a co-discoverer of four planets known as HD 31253b, HD 218566b, HD177830c and HD 99492c.

It was the hours he spent analysing thousands of figures of space data – all in his spare time, all on his two home PCs – which provided the clues for scientists to establish the existence of the huge gaseous orbs….

[I]n 2005, astronomers at the university released millions of space measurements collected over several decades and asked enthusiasts to make of them what they would.

Quirks in the data could signify the existence of exoplanets – that is, planets in other solar systems which cannot be seen with even the most powerful telescope because they are so far away. From March 2007 Peter, 45, spent entire nights reading the data, working the figures, creating graphs…. “Essentially you’re looking for measurements which show a star, which is millions of miles across and light years away, to be oscillating by about 50 metres or less…. The measurements are so tiny, it puts many people off looking – even professional astronomers – but I find it fascinating.”

Rack up another discovery for citizen science!