NASA scientists are poring over their most detailed snapshots of our universe, searching for the hallmark shapes that indicate a planet being formed. And you can help them, even if you never got that Ph.D. in astronomy, just by hopping on the Disk Detective website.
This new citizen science project gives you access to images from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, NASA's satellite telescope peering deep into the far corners of our universe. Disk Detectives, as the name suggests, will search through WISE images for flattened disk shapes, which indicate the swirling clouds of particles that spin around forming stars and eventually become planetary systems.
Why can't NASA just use machines for the job? As smart as the agency's supercomputers may be, they just can't be trained to recognize the subtle differences that distinguish dusty disks from other shapes. And with 500 million unidentified objects to sort, NASA needs all the help it can get.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team