SLOOH and NASA announced the signing of a Space Act Agreement to engage the public in astronomy.
As part of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA is partnering with SLOOH to engage citizen scientists in the effort to track and characterize nearEarth asteroids. Amateur astronomers will be able to use SLOOH’s global network of online telescopes to monitor and characterize NEOs, offering citizen scientists without access to professional equipment the opportunity to be a part
of the global challenge to find all asteroids hazardous to human populations and know what to do about them.
“We are excited by the opportunity to tap into SLOOH’s network of amateur astronomers, who are already producing scientific papers with their work,” said Jason Kessler, program executive for the Asteroid Grand Challenge. “We look forward to expanding the meaningful science the SLOOH network can provide in support of the Grand Challenge.”
NASA also plans to partner with SLOOH on live astronomy events, starting with coverage of Comet 209P/LINEAR and its resultant meteor shower as it passes by Earth on Friday, May 23rd. Slooh and NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama will offer a double feature starting with the Comet at 3 PM PDT / 6 PM EDT / 22 UTC and then the meteor shower at 8 PM PDT/11 PM EDT / 03 UTC (5/24). SLOOH and NASA will discuss their partnership during the broadcast, which will be available live on the Slooh.com website and NASA.gov.
Live astronomy events through the NASA and SLOOH platforms increase the number of people who can watch and actively participate in science as it happens. Future events will include NASA experts offering commentary on live events. SLOOH plans to provide NASA with relevant observation data from these events which may be used for grand challenge citizen science efforts.
“This partnership is a great validation of our approach to engage the public in the exploration of space.” said Michael Paolucci, founder and CEO of SLOOH. “NASA understands the importance of citizen science, and knows that a good way to get amateur astronomers involved is to offer them ways to do productive astronomy. SLOOH does that by giving them remote access to great telescopes situated at leading observatory sites around the world.”
In support of the Asteroid Grand Challenge, NASA and Slooh will recruit and train citizen astronomers to perform follow on observations of asteroids after they are discovered by professional astronomers. These subsequent observations to characterize the size, rotation and light reflecting qualities of asteroids are essential to precisely determine their orbits.
Slooh is planning to add 10 telescopes to its facility at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC) to gear up for the asteroid campaign. Slooh and IAC announced in November 2013 an extension to 2020 of their decade long partnership in preparation for today’s announcement. “Completing a census of Near Earth Asteroids is of exceptional relevance. We are very pleased to collaborate with SLOOH and amateur astronomers to followup Potentially Hazardous Asteroids with available optical and infrared telescopes in the Canarian Observatories” said Rafael Rebolo, IAC Director.
There are currently 10,957 discovered NEAs, of which 1,472 are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA). It is estimated that while 90 percent of the 1 kilometre plus sized asteroids have been discovered, only 30% of the 140metre sized NEAs have been found, with less than 1 percent of the 30metre sized NEAs having been detected. “Discovering nearEarth asteroids has become an automatic process for the survey telescopes, but discovery is just the beginning—there is so much science to do after that!” says Dr. Jose Luis Galache of the Minor Planet Center. “Amateur astronomers with access to prolevel telescopes under dark skies are in a great position to learn more about an asteroid than just where it’s going.”