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Help spot asteroids! The Daily Minor Planet needs you

Help spot asteroids: White observatory domes with some snow on the ground and a daytime partly cloudy sky.
NASA’s new Daily Minor Planet project is asking you to help spot asteroids. You would use data collected by the Catalina Sky Survey, located at Mount Lemmon Observatory in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. Image via Daniel Oberhaus/ Wikimedia Commons.

NASA posted this original article on May 16, 2023. Edits by EarthSky.

Help spot asteroids!

NASA’s new Daily Minor Planet project seeks your help discovering and tracking asteroids in a dazzling new data set. Remember asteroids, those lumps of rock tumbling through space left over from the formation of our solar system? There are so many reasons to find these objects. Some asteroids pose an impact hazard to Earth, while others are essential for humanity’s endeavor to explore, live, and work in space. Now there’s a new way you can help.

The Daily Minor Planet project uses data from the NASA-funded, University of Arizona-based Catalina Sky Survey, which collects more than 1,000 images per night. Carson Fuls, a science engineering specialist for the Catalina Sky Survey who heads the project, said:

We take so many images of the sky each night that we cannot possibly look through all of our potential real asteroids.

How to help

At the Daily Minor Planet, you’ll decide if the specks of light in the images look like genuine celestial bodies. Or, they might be false detections resulting from inconveniently timed “twinkles” of the star-studded background, dust on the telescope mirror, or other causes. After answering by clicking a yes or no button, you can either write a comment or move on to the next set of images.

The new Daily Minor Planet project replaces the Catalina Outer Solar System Survey project, which is now complete. If you contributed to the Catalina Outer Solar System Survey project, thank you! The science team learned from their experience working with you on that project and cleared up some bottlenecks in their data pipeline. The new Daily Minor Planet will feature new images uploaded daily. Come give it a try!

Fuls said:

I thought it would be great if people could do what we do every night. We see this website throwing open the doors: Do you want to look for asteroids, too? If so, come on in.

But wait, there’s more!

Can’t get enough asteroids? You’ll also enjoy searching for comet-like objects hiding in the asteroid belt with the Active Asteroids project. Or, get a group together to join the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC).

Bottom line: NASA’s new project, the Daily Minor Planet, is asking for you to help spot asteroids. You’ll help decide if the specks of light are asteroids or other objects such as stars or telescope dust.


Read more: Detecting asteroids near the sun with NEOMIR

May 19, 2023
Human World

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