In Disk Detective, Zooites hunt for stars that are surrounded by disks of gas, dust, and rock chunks—the substances that can eventually congeal and form planets. But not everything that looks like a dusty star at first glance turns out to actually be one!

The images of the object above start from infrared and transition to photographic. Looking at the infrared image, the object appears to be round, with the features of a potentially planet-forming star. However, by the end of the loop, we are looking at a shorter-wavelength photo, and we can see that we are in fact looking at an elliptical galaxy!

(Note: in the Disk Detective project itself, images are shown in the reverse order of the above .gif—from shorter to longer wavelength.)

This illustrates why it is important for Disk Detective to use multiple surveys when looking at objects: the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), the Digitized Sky Survey (DSS) and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). Join the project and hunt for the origins of tomorrow’s planets!