NASA Disk Detective – Find the Birthplace of Planets

Disk Detective crowdsourcing project helps to find dusty debris disks, which indicate early stages of forming planetary systems. Learning more about these stars can tell us how our Solar System formed.

Disk-Detective Finding planets around other stars is hard. But there’s an important trick we can use to study extrasolar planets that also teaches us about where the planets come from.

Planets form from vast clouds of gas, dust, and chunks of rock---clouds that take the shape of disks with stars in the center. We can find out where planets are forming and where planets probably remain today by searching for stars that are surrounded by these disks. Finding these disks, called “debris disks” or “YSO disks” depending on their age and gas content, has been a major quest of astronomers for the last three decades.

NASA’s WISE mission probably made images of thousands of debris disks and YSO disks. Alas, these disks are buried among images of millions of other kinds of astronomical objects like galaxies and nebulae, and mixed in with images that contain artifacts created by the telescope itself. In Disk Detective, you will help astronomers find these disks, homes for extrasolar planets.

Help classify the images at

We need YOUR Help

Disks are not the only kind of celestial object that glows bright in the infrared. Galaxies, asteroids, active galactic nuclei, and interstellar clouds of dust all emit at these wavelengths. Computer algorithms designed to automatically search for disks are easily thrown off by these sources of confusion, so we need to examine all these disk candidates by eye to make sure they really are stars with disks, and not some other kind of interloper. Also, computer programs can only detect what we tell them to measure. But you can do much more than that. With a large all-sky data set and your curiosity, the possibilities for unexpected discoveries are vast.
NASA-Disk Disk Detective is the first NASA led and funded Zooniverse project. It is also the first NASA led and funded crowdsourcing project whose main goal is to produce publishable scientific results. It was built using seed money from NASA's Science Innovation Fund.

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