Amateur astronomers can now detect 15pc more asteroids with NASA software

16 Mar 2015

The Big Dipper rising behind the Catalina Sky Survey 60in telescope. Image via Catalina Sky Survey, University of Arizona

Amateur astronomers will now be able to detect 15pc more asteroids after the release of new software developed from an algorithm as part of US space agency NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.

Launched at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, the NASA panel announced the release of the desktop software application developed by NASA in partnership with Planetary Resources, the company with grand plans to mine asteroids in the near-future.

This new application is based on an Asteroid Data Hunter-derived algorithm that analyses images for potential asteroids and is designed as a tool that can be used by amateur astronomers and citizen scientists to determine which objects are suitable for follow up, which leads to finding more asteroids than previously possible.

The software is accessed through a desktop application that will allow any Mac or PC user to upload their images from their own telescopes and will make it much easier to detect asteroids located in the asteroid belt located in our solar system between Mars and Jupiter.

Keeping a track on the asteroids within our solar system is not just a leisurely pursuit for stargazers however, as it plays an important part in finding what path these asteroids are taking and whether they could one day enter a trajectory that could put our whole planet in danger.

And yet, given that the software was created with the help of Planetary Resources, it could also be used for the identification of asteroids that could be mined for precious minerals.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic