Find an Asteroid 2020
SGAC Asteroid Search Campaign

Discover and name an asteroid!
Form a team with 3 – 5 SGAC members and apply by November 5, 2020.
The search campaign will take place November 9 – December 4, 2020.
Scroll down to find out all details and how your team can participate.

The Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) and International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) are sponsoring a special asteroid search campaign during the month of November and December, which will run for 4 weeks from November 9th to December 4th, 2020. 

Your team will have a chance to be selected amongst 30 schools and teams worldwide to participate in the Find an Asteroid 2020 search campaign.


Asteroids are rocky, airless worlds that orbit our Sun, but are too small to be called planets. Tens of thousands cluster in the main asteroid belt, a vast doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids within a close proximity to Earth are called Near-Earth Objects, or NEOs.

Asteroids can be classified based on their size, composition, colour, position in the solar system and even how they were formed! They can range in size from Vesta—the largest at about 329 miles (530 kilometers) in diameter – to bodies that are less than 33 feet (10 meters) across.

(Fun fact: The total mass of all the asteroids combined is less than that of our Earth’s Moon.)

It important that we learn more about asteroids, through further research and documentation since asteroids can tell us about the origins of our solar system and even the origins of life itself. Asteroids are discovered with the help of (optical) telescopes by amateur astronomers, using specialized software even you can make such a discovery!

So to continue this initiative, Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) together with International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC. pronounced ”Isaac”) is giving your team the opportunity to make your own discoveries by participating in the Find an Asteroid Campaign 2020!

Search Campaign

Teams receive telescopic images, only hours old and taken along the ecliptic. Using the software Astrometrica, they can accurately measure the time and position of asteroids moving in the background.
These measurements can then be recorded in a report to be sent to IASC.

Weather permitting, each team receives 25 unique sets of images during the campaign. Team members can download each image set and search them for asteroids just hours after they have been taken along the celestial ecliptic at the University of Hawaii (Pan-STARRS).

Teams use the Astrometrica software, with IASC teachers who have participated in asteroid search campaigns available through the website to answer questions by email and help with learning how to properly use the software.

Each year 1000 teams participate from more than 80 countries. Since starting in October 2006, over 1500 asteroids have been discovered, of which 52 have been numbered by the International Astronomical Union (Paris). Numbered asteroids are recorded in the world’s official minor planet catalog and can even be named by their student discoverers.

How to Apply and Requirements

Form a team with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 5 persons. (Each member of your team must be an SGAC member so if you aren’t already registered, please sign up here on our website.)

After assembling your team, you are required to submit your contact details and write a short description explaining your reasons for participating. Note that it is at no cost to the students or schools who apply.


Applications are closed

Key Dates & Deadlines:

Application deadline: 5 November 2020
Confirmation of acceptance : Selected teams will be notified by 8 November 2020.
Campaign duration: 9 November 2020 – 4 December 2020


For questions check the FAQs below or write to [email protected]

Follow the campaign using the hashtags: #asteroidsgac

Keep updated through our Facebook page:

And check our Twitter account:

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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 PG.

Yes, in case of free slots you will form a team with other team-less applicants.

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.

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.
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.
Once selected, we will ask each team to do a tutorial of the Astrometrica software and practice by themselves. The SGAC NEO PROJECT GROUPS will provide assistance if you have any questions.
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.
IASC works with the Pan-STARRS (University of Hawaii) from which they receive and use their data exclusively all year-round. Images are usually taken the night before being sent to the participating teams.
To date students participating in IASC have made 1500 preliminary MBA (Main Belt Asteroid) discoveries, of which two are NEOs (one is a PHA) and one is a Trojan. Currently, 52 have been catalogued and numbered with the student discoverers now proposing their own names to the IAU.
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 Schiaparelli 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 the follow-up confirms your discovery, it is given a provisional designation by the Minor Planet Center. In 3-6 years as additional observations are made and the orbit is fully determined, the asteroid is numbered and placed into the world’s official minor planets catalog by the International Astronomical Union. Numbered asteroids can be named by their discoverers.
IASC offers asteroid search campaigns throughout 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.
We do give preference to teams with students on them. However, we have had amateur groups not affiliated with a school participate. In other words: we allow all to participate, though student groups remain our focus.

Important Note: Even if your school is not selected to participate in this special SGAC project, it may still be able to participate in any of the 20 or more other asteroid search campaigns IASC organizes throughout the year!