Anyone interested in astronomy on the web will be aware of the fabulous success of Planetary Resources’ fundraising effort to build and launch the ARKYD space telescope. They’ve already raised more than a million dollars – helped in part by a cunning plan to let you take a picture of yourself in space – but they’re not stopping there. With three days to go, we’re delighted to announce that they’re going to try and help us help Zooniverse volunteers hunt for potentially hazardous asteroids.
The latest stretch goal is to support the development by the Zooniverse of a citizen science asteroid hunt. If the new target is hit, we’ll build a system that uses more than 3 million images, taken data from the Catalina Sky Survey – the survey responsible for nearly half of the near Earth asteroid discoveries in the last fifteen years. We know there are asteroids out that are waiting to be discovered, and we’re willing to bet that the existing routines used to scan through the survey data didn’t find them all.
Anyone who’s followed the Zooniverse over the last few years knows that we believe in doing projects that make authentic contributions to science, and so I’m especially pleased that the project with Planetary Resources is also focused on improving machine learning solutions to asteroid hunting. Rather like our supernova project, an ideal outcome would be to use the classifications provided by volunteers to improve automated searching and suggest new methods by which machines might take up the strain. In the meantime, though, there are new (small) worlds to find – with your help, we’ll be launching the search for them soon.
I’ve put my money where my mouth is already, and if you can afford it then I hope you’ll follow the link and donate so we can all go asteroid hunting. You can also watch their Kickstarter video to see what they’re trying to do.