Now, you too can become a planetary nursery finding 'detective'
NASA has begun inviting the public to help astronomers discover embryonic planetary systems hidden among data from the agency's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission through a new website, DiskDetective.org.
James Garvin, the chief scientist for NASA Goddard's Sciences and Exploration Directorate, said that through Disk Detective, volunteers are going to help the astronomical community discover new planetary nurseries that will become future targets for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.
WISE was designed to survey the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. From a perch in Earth orbit, the spacecraft completed two scans of the entire sky between 2010 and 2011.
It took detailed measurements on more than 745 million objects, representing the most comprehensive survey of the sky at mid-infrared wavelengths currently available.
The project aims to find two types of developing planetary environments. The first, known as a young stellar object disk, typically is less than 5 million years old, contains large quantities of gas, and often is found in or near young star clusters. For comparison, our own solar system is 4.6 billion years old.
The second planetary environment, known as a debris disk, tends to be older than 5 million years, possesses little or no gas, and contains belts of rocky or icy debris that resemble the asteroid and Kuiper belts found in our own solar system. Vega and Fomalhaut, two of the brightest stars in the sky, host debris disks.
(Posted on 01-02-2014)