Citizen scientists and professional astronomers have found what could possibly be the oldest known circumstellar disk — a group of dust and debris that often birth planets and stars.
While most planetary discs seem to fade within 30-million years, this particular disc is still going strong.
“This particular red dwarf is a candidate member of the Carina stellar association, which would make it around 45 million years old,” said team leader Steven Silverberg in a blog post.
“It’s the oldest red dwarf system with a disk we’ve seen in one of these associations.”
This circumstellar disc could be as old as 45-million years
The discovery is in part thanks to Disk Detective, a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center initiative.
Disk Detective consists of citizen scientists who studied 10-second footage of data NASA has surveyed as well as footage from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer Mission (WISE) at Disk Detective’s website. Scientists were also able to view collected footage from the Two-Micron All Sky Survey project (2MASS).
Since the launch of Disk Detective in January 2014, more than 30 000 citizen scientists have taken part in the viewing process, classifying roughly two million celestial objects.
“Without the help of the citizen scientists examining these objects and finding the good ones, we might never have spotted this object,” said Dr Marc Kuchner, leader of the project Disk Detective project at NASA.
The age of the disk isn’t the only thing intriguing scientists. There’s a possibility that the disk itself could host exoplanets.
Featured image: Ed Dunens via Flickr