Help NASA find where planets are born

Hubble image of a young stellar object disc around a star, spanning 64 billion kilometers.

(Credit: NASA/Hubble/STScI)

Crowdsourcing, scientists are increasingly finding, is an efficient means of conducting busywork. Whether it’s sequencing genomes, designing RNA, deciphering HIV proteins, or cataloguing galaxies, the old axiom proves true: many hands do indeed make light work.

NASA has just launched a new project that will bring the power of crowdsourcing to finding embryonic planetary systems tucked away in the data collected by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.

Using a tool called Disk Detective, launched via Zooniverse, anyone can look at images taken by the WISE telescope and catalog “disks.” What the researchers are looking for is dust-rich discs of debris — places where planets are born.

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