There is currently a population of 750,000 asteroids and about 2,000 new objects are discovered each month. 2% of all asteroids are classified as NEAs (Near Earth Objects) and of these 10% (2,000 approximately) are PHAs or potentially dangerous asteroids for the Earth, that is, asteroids with a non-zero probability of impacting against our planet. The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union is the body that registers the asteroid database, which helps maintain professional and amateur astronomers.
Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) have developed an application (app) that allows anyone, and in a simple way, to help control the population of asteroids. It is a free application for mobile devices called Cazasteroides.
Being a steroid hunter is simple, you only need to have the app installed (in its Android, iOS version or in a web browser) and visual acuity. The user sees on his mobile a sequence of images of the sky and marks those objects suspected of being asteroids. The detections are first filtered by the users themselves (through a voting system) and finally it will be a team of professional astronomers who verify the true nature of the objects detected.
The application includes gamification techniques to make it more attractive to users, rewarding them with points and virtual money for their actions. This money can later be spent for teleoperation from the app itself of the different astronomical experiments of the GLORIA network.
The final medium-term objective is to have a worldwide network of telescopes that contribute their images and are part of this application so that, very quickly and thanks to the collaboration of thousands of citizens, the population of objects can be controlled. dangerous for our planet.
A first prototype
The first prototype was presented last November at the Science and Innovation Week in the Canary Islands. Miquel Serra-Ricart, astronomer at the IAC and scientific head of the app, presented the project to dozens of schoolchildren who tested the application from their own mobile devices.
“The visual acuity of young people will allow us to detect weaker asteroids, and therefore smaller, than with traditional image recognition algorithms. The key is to get thousands of citizens involved in the project. It is everyone's job to protect the future of our planet and cazasteroids will be our shield against objects that come very close to Earth ”, says Serra-Ricart.
Between December 22, 2016 and January 8, 2017, a more advanced version will be presented at the Tenerife Children's Park (PIT). Thanks to the collaboration of Media Markt Tenerife and Volkswagen Canarias, thousands of young people will be able to become cazasteroids using Android tablets and their own mobiles. This project has been funded by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology.
Channels to follow the Cazasteroides project