Thursday, June 27, 2013

Join the hunt for potentially hazardous asteroids

The asteroid mining company Planetary Resources announced on Thursday that they have entered into a collaboration with Zooniverse that will empower the general public to aid in the search for dangerous near Earth asteroids (NEAs).

It's been 66 million years since scientists believe a 10-kilometer asteroid slammed into the Earth, leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today, there are approximately 620,000 objects that are actively tracked in our Solar System, which represents merely one percent of the 60 million asteroids estimated to orbit the Sun.

Planetary Resources is in the final stretch of its Kickstarter campaign, ARKYD- the world's first crowdfunded space telescope for the public, which has generated nearly 15,000 supporters and $1.2 million in pledges. If pledges reach $1.7 million in the three remaining days of the campaign, Planetary Resources and Zooniverse will create Asteroid Zoo, a program to allow students, citizen scientists and space enthusiasts to find potentially hazardous asteroids.

Modeled after Zooniverse's popular Galaxy Zoo and other astronomy projects, Asteroid Zoo will allow the public to search through more than three-million images collected by Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) for undiscovered asteroids in a fun, game-like process from their personal computers. The public's findings will be used by scientists to develop advanced asteroid-searching technology for telescopes on Earth and in space, including the ARKYD. Of all the asteroids ever discovered, 93 percent were found in the last 15 years and nearly half of the near-Earth asteroids were discovered by CSS.

Chris Lintott, astronomer at the University of Oxford and Zooniverse principal investigator said, "Zooniverse volunteers have already inspected more than a million galaxies, discovered planets and kept an eye on solar storms. We're looking forward to working with Planetary Resources to make sure citizen scientists everywhere can make a real contribution to spotting asteroids too."

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