NASA seeks help to find new Asteroids-Asteroid Data Hunter

Published on March 17, 2015 12:10:10 PM
Technology

NASA in partnership with Planetary Resources. Inc., of Redmond,Washington has developed a Application to increase the number of new asteroid discoveries by amateur astronomers.

The application is based on an Asteroid Data Hunter-derived algorithm that analyzes images for potential asteroids. The tool can be utilized by amateur astronomers and citizen scientists.

The algorithm showed a 15 percent increase in the identification of new asteroids in our solar system’s main belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The Asteroid Data Hunter challenge was part of NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge. "The Asteroid Grand Challenge is seeking non-traditional partnerships to bring the citizen science and space enthusiast community into NASA’s work,” said Jason Kessler, program executive for NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.

"The Asteroid Data Hunter challenge has been successful beyond our hopes, creating something that makes a tangible difference to asteroid hunting astronomers and highlights the possibility for more people to play a role in protecting our planet.” he added.

To find Asteroids, Astronomers take images of the same place in the sky and look for star-like objects that move between frames. This approach has been used in the past before Pluto was discovered in 1930.

With more telescopes scanning the sky, the volume of data is increasing day by day and increasing difficulty for astronomers to verify detection by hand. The new algorithm has an ability to autonomously and rapidly check images and determine which objects are suitable for follow up providing a way to find more asteroids than before.

"The beauty of such archives is that the data doesn't grow stale, and with novel approaches, techniques and algorithms, they can be harvested for new information. The participants of the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge did just that, probing observations of the night sky for new asteroids that might have slipped through the software cracks the first time the images were analyzed.” said Jose Luis Galache of the MPC.

"Moreover, this software can now be used to analyze new images and is available to any observer who wants to use it. The Minor Planet Center applauds these efforts to provide superior tools to all, and looks forward to receiving new asteroid observations generated with them.” he added.

The software application is free and can be installed on basic desktop or laptop. At present it is available for Windows and Mac and will be soon available on Linux. The application has been installed on the computer. When the Amateur astronomers take images from their telescopes, the application helps them to analyze them and check with the existing records and thus report a new finding to the Minor Planet Center, which then confirms and archives new discoveries.

The new asteroid hunting application can be downloaded at: http://topcoder.com/asteroids

For information about NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative