May 22, 2023

Discovery program lets amateur astronomers join online search for asteroids

Citizen scientists can compare photographs to pick up subtle clues for space rocks.

Catalina Asteroid Image showing asteroid Didymos (arrow) against background of stars.
European Southern Observatory

If you have an internet connection, you can help astronomers in Tucson search for asteroids.

The Catalina Sky Survey is working alongside the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab to open up the asteroid-hunting process to citizen scientists. Engineering specialist Carson Fuls says people can compare images taken from ground-based telescopes and find differences that can reveal a wayward space rock against a background of stars.

"Humans are really good at picking up motion from images and that's what we rely on," said Fuls. "That's what we need people to tell us: do you see a consistent small dot moving through these images?"

Participants can go on an online portal and find out how they can play a role in detecting unknown objects in the solar system.

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