NSO students actively helping to track Near Earth Objects

Animation of the asteroid 2011YH40
Animation of the asteroid 2011YH40
Credit: Liverpool Telescope

Over the past few months the Liverpool Telescope has quietly been gathering images of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that require further observation and measurement, so that their orbits can be accurately determined and any impact with the Earth ruled out. Earlier this month, the NSO submitted the first in a series of regular reports to the Minor Planet Center (MPC) that included the names of NSO school students as measurers of these NEO positions.

The MPC was set up by the International Astronomical Union to act as the worldwide "clearing house" for asteroid and comet observations. It receives measurements from many telescopes and groups around the world, and uses them to refine the orbits of known or recently discovered NEOs. The MPC is currently tracking just under 600,000 objects.

Jay Tate, Director of the Spaceguard Centre (the International Information Centre for the Spaceguard Foundation) said,

"Measuring the positions of newly discovered asteroids and comets that are close enough to the Earth to be classified as Near Earth Objects is a very important step in understanding the threat they pose to us. It is work that is mainly carried out by a worldwide community of astronomers and it is great to see NSO school students joining in this work."

The images that the students are using to help determine the orbits of recently discovered asteroids are being downloaded as part of NSO's Asteroid Watch project, and analysed using our own LTImage, which was developed specifically for school use. The project is the first automated UK-based project of its kind, and if your students would like to get involved, please start at the following link:

Asteroid Watch Project