Disk Detective

Some stars are surrounded by disks - vast spinning clouds of gas, dust, and chunks of rock where planets form and evolve. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission collected images of more than two billion objects. Now scientists need your help finding which of these objects are stars with disks.

This long-running project discovered the Peter Pan disk phenomenon. Peter Pan disks are a kind of disk that retains gas far longer than most. More than 14 volunteers have become named coauthors of published papers through this project.

Go to Project Website


Ages 18 and up







What you'll do

  • View images of stars taken by multiple telescopes.
  • Examine the images for background sources of light or other interference that might mimic light from a disk.
  • Connect with scientists and other citizen scientists to research good disk candidates in greater depth.


  • Time to get started: ~15 Minutes to complete online training.
  • Equipment: Internet connected mobile device or computer
  • Knowledge: None. In-project tutorial provided.

Get started!

  1. Visit the project website
  2. Learn: Click “Get Started” and complete the tutorial to learn how to recognize debris disks.
  3. Look for disks: Start looking for debris disks by comparing multiple images of the same star taken with different telescopes.

Learn more

Join the Disk Detective Talk forum to learn from peers and scientists. When you've done 300 classifications, email diskdetectives@gmail.com and ask to join the advanced user group.

A cartoon white magnifying glass is centered on a yellow sphere with a ring around it against a black background. The magnified image in the center of the square logo is meant to be a star encircled by a debris disk.
we see a grid of four views of the same part of space, each taken by a different telescope. The images have black backgrounds with white and blue blobs. From upper left and moving clockwise, the images were made by: unWISE w3 (the brightest image), unWISE w1 (only three distinct white spots and two blue), Pan-STARRS g (all the spots are still visible, but each is smaller), and 2MASS J (same spots of light, smaller yet). Each image has a bright spot in the center surrounded by two red circles
You'll compare images of the same star at different wavelengths to help figure out if that star has a disk.
Concentric rings surround a bright yellow circle in the center. The rings are yellow-orange in the middle, orange-red in the middle, and red and ragged on the outer ring. Text in the lower right corner of the image reads “Image of the HL Tau Disk from the ALMA Telescope” where ALMA stands for “Atacama Large Millimeter Array.”
Planets form from the vast clouds of gas, dust, and chunks of rock that surround some stars.

Get to know the people of Disk Detective!

Portrait photo of a smiling man wearing glasses and standing in front of a large colorful image of the universe

Steven Silverberg

Citizen Scientist/Postdoctoral Associate

Photo of a smiling man wearing glasses and a tshirt and standing in a field outside

Alexandru Enachioaie

Citizen Scientist/Site Reliability Engineer for Altmetric

Photo of a smiling bearded man with a bald head standing outside

Joshua “Josh” Hamilton

Citizen Scientist/Director of Adult Faith Formation

Portrait photo of a man wearing glasses and a hoodie and standing in front of a stream and green trees

Hugo Durantini Luca

Citizen Scientist/Astronomy Student

Photo of a smiling woman wearing an orange hard hat and standing in a lab

Katharina Doll

Citizen Scientist/University Research Assistant

Portrait photo of a smiling man wearing a blue fleece jacket with green trees in the background

Marc Kuchner

Astrophysicist/Citizen Science Officer

close up photo of a smiling man with brown hair

Jonathan Holden

Citizen Scientist

Photo of a smiling young woman standing in front of a bookshelf

Emily Burns-Kaurin

Citizen Scientist/College Student

Photo of a smiling man wearing a short sleeve shirt and pointing at a large poster filled with text and universe imagery.

Milton Keller Drane Bosch

Citizen Scientist/Medical Doctor (retired)

Lily Wa Wah Lau

Citizen Scientist/Photographer

Keep Exploring

Discover More Topics From NASA