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Hunt down real-life exoplanets in EVE Online's Project Discovery

by: Randy -
More On: EVE Online

How many real-life exoplanets have you discovered in the Milky Way while playing video games? Maybe none? EVE Online gives you an opportunity to bump up that number with Project Discovery.

As an EVE Online pilot, you'll be handed real-world (real-space?) data in game to discover planets outside of our own solar system, using transit photometry. Transit photometry—very, very basically, because I'm not an astrophysicist—is detecting if light levels decrease when looking at a star, and using follow-up observations to see if that dip in light levels was because a planet was passing in front of that star.

I'm not going to tell you how astronomically small the chances are of detecting that happening. Just be like Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.

The face of this project is Swiss astrophysicist Michel Mayor. Dude discovered the first (the first!) exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b, in 1995. He's the real deal. He's your in-game tutor.

EVE Online isn't running with its "EVE is Real" slogan anymore, but this is certainly a way in which it certainly is. This isn't the kind of thing that got EVE into the Museum of Modern Art—EVE is singularly brilliant in its own right—but it certainly contributes to why the venerable MMO will be celebrating its 13th anniversary in November.

EVE Online launched in 2003, but introduced a free-to-play version last year. Even if you aren't interested in forking over a monthly subscription rate, you still get a solid chunk of game, and you'll have access to Project Discovery.