Find An Asteroid 2016
Do you want to discover and name an asteroid?
Form a team with 3 - 5 SGAC members and apply by August 20 EXTENDED: August 30.
The search campaign will take place 23 September - 21 October.
Click on the links above to find out all details.
Asteroids are small rocky bodies that are leftover building blocks from the formation of our solar system. Many of those can be found in the asteroid belt orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Others have different orbits around the Sun and can come close to Earth, in this case they are called Near Earth Objects (NEOs). Their size ranges from meters to kilometers in diameter. Due to the potential danger they can pose, it is important to know our cosmic neighbourhood very well. The more objects we are aware of and know about their orbits, the better we are prepared in case one of them gets too close. For detailed information about asteroids and NEOs, please check out SGAC’s NEO documentary and see the links in the reference section at the bottom of the NEO WG page.
As mentioned, it is important to know how many asteroids are out there and what characteristics they have (size, orbit, etc.). Asteroids are discovered with the help of (optical) telescopes by amateur astronomers. In most cases pictures of a certain region of the sky are taken a few minutes or hours apart. Since stars do not change positions relative to each other, every moving object is potentially an asteroid (it could also be a satellite). Using special software YOU can make such a discovery.
SGAC gives you the opportunity to take part in an Asteroid Search Campaign. Partnering with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration, SGAC has slots available for 15 -20 teams to participate. Team up with your SGAC friends and start hunting!
Selected teams will receive an info pack about the software to be used and other details on how to get ready for the Search Campaign.
The Search Campaign itself will last for 4 weeks from September 23 – October 21 . Typically your team will get 3-5 image sets per week. This is an average depending upon factors such as the Moon and weather. It takes about 20 minutes to analyse one set. This means you can expect an average workload of 1.5 - 2.5 hours per week. The image analysis is done with Astrometrica, an easy to use software package provided by IASC.
Participants are asked to conduct only manual searches, therefore it is important to consider that only reports which have been generated through the manual feature of Astrometrica will be accepted.
Each team could consist of SGAC members from different countries, and they would collaborate as a research team via the internet, submitting a single MPC (Minor Planet Center) report to IASC on each of the image sets that they get during a week. A team working over the internet will probably rotate the responsibility of analyzing a set then share their work with the others on the team for comment. IASC will generally wait 4 days for the teams to process one set, so there's ample time for the team members to collaborate. IASC then links their measurements to the official report that IASC's data reduction group prepares. Although if the teams respond very quickly (e.g., within 24 hours or less) their measurements can be included directly in the IASC reports, and in some cases resulting in their being published by the MPC or even on rare occasion, the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
In case you discover an asteroid, you will receive further information. If your discovery is confirmed, the naming rights will be yours.
After the Search Campaign you are asked to submit a short report to SGAC about your experience.
In order to apply for the SGAC Search Campaign, you and the other members of your team need to be a SGAC Member. If you are not a member yet, sign up here (It’s easy and free).
Teams can be made up of a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 5 individuals.
There are no constraints on the composition of your team. You can be located in the same city, same country or spread around the globe. It is important though that you are able to collaborate with each other via the internet during the campaign to share your findings with your team members and to prepare the MPC report.
Please keep in mind the following:
The Search Campaign will last for 4 weeks (23 September - 21 October). Make sure that during that time frame you have enough free time to participate in the search and you will need a reliable high speed internet access.
After your team has been selected, you are to provide a name for your team which will be your official team name during the campaign (be creative) and you are to make sure the MPC report is send on time (e.g. by nominating a team lead and backup). It is also important to have a communications plan for your team in place, especially if you are not located in the same city. This is to ensure that you know how you will share information with your teammates, e.g. Skype, Facebook, etc.
Before the campaign you will have the opportunity to practice the whole process, so don’t worry if you think you are not ready yet.
After the Search Campaign you will be asked to provide a short report and present your experience with the search campaign at your local school (optional).
Fill out the application form by August 20 (23.59 GMT) EXTENDED: August 30 (23.59 GMT).
1 August - Applications Open
30 August - Applications Close
25 August - Accepted teams will be notified
September timeframe - Tutorial and practice for selected teams
23 September - 21 October - SGAC Search Campaign
10 November - Team reports due
How much time will I need to spend each week?
Your team will get 3-5 image sets per week. This is an average depending upon the Moon and weather. It takes about 20 minutes to analyse one set. Add some time to prepare the MPC report and we are talking about 1.5 to 2 hours per week.
Do I need to have any knowledge about asteroids or have experience in searching for them?
No, you can join the search even if you know nothing about asteroids. It will be a great way to learn about them. You can find more information about asteroids and NEOs in our link section at the bottom of the main page of the NEO WG.
Can I participate without a team?
Yes, in case of free slots you will form a team with other team-less applicants.
Can I sign up while still searching for additional team members?
Yes, you can already sign up. Once you find other people who want to join your team, they should mention your name in the field of the application form, so we can group you together.
Does my team have to be located in the same city?
No, you do not have to be located in the same city to work on the images. Although you can of course meet face-to-face to analyse the data, you can work via internet with other team members in other locations of your country or even around the globe.
How will the teams be selected?
The teams will be selected on the one paragraph description of the team member’s individual motivations (80%) as well as their regional distribution (20%). Teams slots will first be filled with complete teams, then free slots are filled with individuals without a team.
How can I prepare for the campaign?
Once selected, we will ask each team to do a tutorial of the Astrometrica software and practice by themselves. The SGAC NEO WG will provide assistance if you have any questions.
What if I miss an image set due to exams or other reasons?
Missing an image set every once in a while can happen, so don’t worry too much about it, especially if you inform your team beforehand so they can adjust to the situation. Should it happen that an entire team misses image sets repeatedly, teams will not be sent any new images and the campaign is over for them. Therefore, try your best to analyse each image set - this also increases your chances of discovering an asteroid.
Where do the images come from?
IASC works with the Astronomical Research Institute (Westfield, IL), Pan-STARRS (University of Hawaii), and the National Astronomical Observatories of China (Xinglong Station). ARI data is provided year-round while PS1 and Xinglong data are available at different times throughout the year (e.g., October - December, March - May for PS1). Images are usually taken the night before being sent to the participating teams.
What kind of asteroids can I find?
To date students participating in IASC have made 327 preliminary MBA (Main Belt Asteroid) discoveries, of which 2 are NEOs (one is a PHA) and 1 is a Trojan. 15 have been catalogued and numbered with the student discoverers now proposing their own names to the IAU.
What happens when I discover an asteroid?
IASC will handle many of the follow-ups for the student discoveries. They use the Faulkes Telescope Program (2-m), the 1.3-m RCT at Kitt Peak maintained by Western Kentucky University, and 0.81-m RC at Tarleton State University (Stephenville, TX). IASC also make use of the Sierra Stars Observatory Network (Markleeville, CA), which has a 0.61-m and 0.81-m. The 0.61-m at the Shiaparelli Observatory (Northern Italy), 2.5-m at Magdalena Ridge Observatory, and 0.81-m at the ARI are used upon special request for fast and slow movers (e.g., NEOs and Trojans). In case your discovery is confirmed by the IAU you will get the naming rights to it.
What if I didn’t get selected but still want to participate in an asteroid search campaign?
IASC offers asteroid search campaigns thoughout the year for schools. You can ask a teacher of your school if he/she would support participating in a search with your school. For more information how to apply with your school, go to the IASC website.