Scientists have discovered the oldest known planet-forming disk – a 45 million-year-old ring of gas and dust that orbits around a young star, from which planets can form as the material collides and aggregates.
Circumstellar disks around red dwarfs like this one are rare to begin with, but this star, called AWI0005x3s, appears to have sustained its disk for an exceptionally long time.
The discovery relied on citizen scientists from Disk Detective, a project designed to find new circumstellar disks.
At the project’s website, users make classifications by viewing ten-second videos of data from NASA surveys, including the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission (WISE) and Two-Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) projects.
Since the launch of the website in January 2014, roughly 30,000 citizen scientists have participated in this process, performing roughly 2 million classifications of celestial objects.
The WISE mission alone found 747 million (warm infrared) objects, of which we expect a few thousand to be circumstellar disks.