Target NEOs! Searching for and Characterizing Asteroids via Citizen Science
Citizen scientists have always played an important role in astronomy. By capturing images of known asteroids over a long time period, amateur astronomers, students and the public can contribute to the characterization (physical understanding of asteroids) with the Target NEO Observing Program and other citizen science programs. Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) include asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighborhood. Amateur astronomers and astronomy organizations such as the Martz-Kohl Observatory, have access to research grade instrumentation and have the ability to devote time making observations that can fill in the gaps for professional astronomers who often are able to observe only a few asteroids a few nights per year.
While it can be difficult for amateur astronomers without the right resources to compete with the big asteroid search surveys like PanSTARRS in Hawaii and the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, there are opportunities to search images provided during special campaigns from the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC).
Dolores Hill is a Senior Research Specialist, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, at the University of Arizona. Dr. Patrick Miller is a professor of mathematics at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, TX. Carl Hergenrother is co-coordinator of the Astronomical League’s Target NEOs! and an astronomer and discoverer of minor planets and comets.
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