22 October 2011

Amateurs Find Asteroids

From: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2048797/Amateur-skywatchers-Tenerife-impact-threat-asteroid.html?ito=feeds-newsxml


Amateur skywatchers in Tenerife find 'impact threat' asteroid

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 7:30 PM on 13th October 2011


Amateur astronomers have for the first time spotted an asteroid that comes close enough to earth to pose a threat of impact.
Volunteers picked out the cosmic rock - named asteroid 2011 SF108 - last month from the observatory in the Canary Islands.
The breakthrough discovery could signal the first of many more asteroid sighting around the world as keen amateurs become more equipped with advanced technology.
Threat: Asteroid 2011 SF108 is seen in the centre of the picture circled by a red ring
Threat: Asteroid 2011 SF108 is seen in the centre of the picture circled by a red ring
Space experts said the sighting highlighting the value of ‘crowd-sourcing’ to science and planetary defense.
The discovery of asteroid 2011 SF108 was made by the volunteer Teide Observatory Tenerife Asteroid Survey (TOTAS) team during an observation slot sponsored by ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program.
The four-night survey used the 1m-aperture telescope at ESA’s Optical Ground Station at Teide on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

This is not the first asteroid found under SSA sponsorship, but it is the first that qualifies as a ‘near Earth object’ – an object that passes close enough to Earth during its orbit around the Sun that it could pose an impact threat.
During TOTAS observations, the telescope runs automated asteroid surveys for several hours using software developed by amateur astronomer and computer scientist Matthias Busch from the Starkenburg Amateur Observatory in Heppenheim, Germany.
However, potential sightings must still be evaluated by humans.
A team of 20 volunteers analyses each of the images to highlight anything that appears to be moving through space.
Breakthrough: The observatory in Tenerife at an altitude of 2393 metres from where the asteroid was detected
Breakthrough: The observatory in Tenerife at an altitude of 2393 metres from where the asteroid was detected

Keen: Amateur astronomers monitor the sky in the darkened control room of the ESA's Optical Ground Station in Tenerife
Recording developments: Amateur astronomers monitor the sky in the darkened control room of the ESA's Optical Ground Station in Tenerife
The team successfully picked out the anomaly  during the session on 28/29 September and it was was later confirmed as an asteroid.
Detlef Koschny, Head of asteroid activity for SSA, said: 'Images are distributed to the entire team for review, and any one of them could be the discoverer of a new asteroid. This time, the luck of the draw fell to Rainer Kracht.
'As volunteer work, it is very rewarding. When you do spot something, you contribute to Europe’s efforts in defending against asteroid hazards.'
'When you do spot something, you contribute to Europe’s efforts in defending against asteroid hazards.'
The orbit of asteroid 2011 SF108 brings it no closer than about 30 million km to Earth – a safe distance.
The object is the 46th asteroid discovered by Mr. Kracht, a retired school teacher who lives in Elmshorn, near Hamburg, Germany.
He said: 'Eight of us reviewed images on the night of the discovery, and I was lucky to be the one who found 2011 SF108 as part of this team.
'The discovery was only possible with the excellent software developed by Matthias Busch, who also spotted this object in the images on the second night and sent the observations to the Minor Planet Center.'
To date, some 8000 asteroids have been discovered worldwide but many thousands more are suspected to exist, particularly in the size of meters to hundreds of meters. It is important to find and track these to determine if any pose an impact threat to Earth.
TOTAS is helping to lay the foundation for a future European asteroid survey as part of the full SSA program, which is to be decided in 2012.
Such a survey would use multiple 1m telescopes to scan the complete sky every night, a much larger effort than at present, and is expected to discover several asteroid per week. It would use a mix of professional and ‘crowd-sourced’ astronomers.
Currently, professional asteroid surveys are performed only in the USA. The only significant asteroid survey in Europe now is the La Sagra Sky Survey, undertaken by amateur astronomers in southern Spain.


http://www.space.com/13272-asteroid-discovery-amateur-astronomers-2011-sf108.html

A team of amateur astronomers has discovered a previously unknown asteroid in orbit that brings it near the Earth, highlighting the contributions regular folks can make to planetary defense, scientists announced Wednesday (Oct. 12).
The skywatchers spotted the asteroid, which is known as 2011 SF108, in September using a telescope in the Canary Islands. While 2011 SF108's orbit appears to bring it no closer to Earth than about 18 million miles (30 million kilometers), it still qualifies as a near-Earth object — the class of space rocks that could pose a danger to our planet.
The team took advantage of an observation slot sponsored by the European Space Agency's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program to make the find, according to an ESA announcement.
"As volunteer work, it is very rewarding," said Detlef Koschny, head of near-Earth object activity for SSA, in a statement. "When you do spot something, you contribute to Europe's efforts in defending against asteroid hazards." [Photo of newfound asteroid 2011 SF108]
Amateurs make a find
Asteroid 2011 SF108 was discovered by the Teide Observatory Tenerife Asteroid Survey (TOTAS) team, a group of 20 skywatching volunteers. They used the 1-meter telescope at the European Space Agency's Optical Ground Station on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
Specifics on the asteroid's estimated size were not detailed in the ESA announcement.
The telescope observed for four nights, running automated asteroid surveys using software developed by amateur astronomer and computer scientist Matthias Busch from the Starkenburg Amateur Observatory in Heppenheim, Germany.
Busch's software flags potential space rocks, but the finds must be confirmed by human eyes. The software scored a hit during the observing session of Sept. 28 and 29, researchers said.
"Images are distributed to the entire team for review, and any one of them could be the discoverer of a new asteroid," Koschny said. "This time, the luck of the draw fell to Rainer Kracht."
Kracht, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Elmshorn, Germany, is therefore 2011 SF108's official discoverer. He now has found 46 asteroids, researchers said.
To date, about 8,000 near-Earth objects have been discovered worldwide, but many thousands more are suspected to exist. Astronomers are keen to find as many of them as possible, so they can better assess the chance that a big, dangerous space rock will slam into Earth sometime soon.
Since starting their SSA-sponsored survey work in January 2010, the TOTAS amateur astronomers have identified nearly 400 candidate asteroids, 20 of which have been confirmed and named, researchers said.
Determing the orbit
After examing telescope images from three separate nights, the TOTAS team was able to determine 2011 SF108's orbit well enough to declare it a near-Earth object.
The team sent news of its find to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., the worldwide clearinghouse of information about comets and asteroids.
While 2011 SF108 appears not to pose much risk to Earth for the foreseeable future, further observations could help refine its orbit and our assessment of just how dangerous it might be, researchers said. But for now, the team can bask in the glow of discovery for a spell.
"It was really an exciting moment when I saw 'our' asteroid appearing on my computer screen," Koschny said. "It confirms the excellent quality of work done by the entire TOTAS team."

From:
http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/space/stories/amateur-astronomers-locate-near-earth-asteroid


Amateur astronomers locate near-Earth asteroid

Amateur astronomers have identified nearly 400 candidate asteroids since January 2010, 20 of which have been confirmed and named.

By Mike WallThu, Oct 13 2011 at 3:04 PM EST
NEW FIND: Observations coordinated by ESA's Space Situational Awareness program have led to the discovery of a previously unknown near-Earth object, asteroid 2011 SF108 in Sept. 2011. The asteroid orbits the sun in a path that brings it within about 18 million miles (30 million km) of Earth. (Photo: ESA)
A team of amateur astronomers has discovered a previously unknown asteroid in orbit that brings it near the Earth, highlighting the contributions regular folks can make to planetary defense, scientists announced Wednesday.
The skywatchers spotted the asteroid, which is known as 2011 SF108, in September using a telescope in the Canary Islands. While 2011 SF108's orbit appears to bring it no closer to Earth than about 18 million miles (30 million kilometers), it still qualifies as a near-Earth object — the class of space rocks that could pose adanger to our planet.
 
The team took advantage of an observation slot sponsored by the European Space Agency's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program to make the find, according to an ESA announcement.
 
"As volunteer work, it is very rewarding," said Detlef Koschny, head of near-Earth object activity for SSA, in a statement. "When you do spot something, you contribute to Europe's efforts in defending against asteroid hazards." [Photo of newfound asteroid 2011 SF108]
 
Amateurs make a find
Asteroid 2011 SF108 was discovered by the Teide Observatory Tenerife Asteroid Survey (TOTAS) team, a group of 20 skywatching volunteers. They used the 1-meter telescope at the European Space Agency's Optical Ground Station on Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
 
Specifics on the asteroid's estimated size were not detailed in the ESA announcement.
 
The telescope observed for four nights, running automated asteroid surveys using software developed by amateur astronomer and computer scientist Matthias Busch from the Starkenburg Amateur Observatory in Heppenheim, Germany.
 
Busch's software flags potential space rocks, but the finds must be confirmed by human eyes. The software scored a hit during the observing session of Sept. 28 and 29, researchers said.
 
"Images are distributed to the entire team for review, and any one of them could be the discoverer of a new asteroid," Koschny said. "This time, the luck of the draw fell to Rainer Kracht."
 
Kracht, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Elmshorn, Germany, is therefore 2011 SF108's official discoverer. He now has found 46 asteroids, researchers said.
 
To date, about 8,000 near-Earth objects have been discovered worldwide, but many thousands more are suspected to exist. Astronomers are keen to find as many of them as possible, so they can better assess the chance that a big, dangerous space rock will slam into Earth sometime soon.
 
Since starting their SSA-sponsored survey work in January 2010, the TOTASamateur astronomers have identified nearly 400 candidate asteroids, 20 of which have been confirmed and named, researchers said.
 
Determing the orbit
After examing telescope images from three separate nights, the TOTAS team was able to determine 2011 SF108's orbit well enough to declare it a near-Earth object.
 
The team sent news of its find to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., the worldwide clearinghouse of information about comets and asteroids.
 
While 2011 SF108 appears not to pose much risk to Earth for the foreseeable future, further observations could help refine its orbit and our assessment of just how dangerous it might be, researchers said. But for now, the team can bask in the glow of discovery for a spell.
 
"It was really an exciting moment when I saw 'our' asteroid appearing on my computer screen," Koschny said. "It confirms the excellent quality of work done by the entire TOTAS team."

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