coffee social NASA sz

What to do when you need to practice your presentation?  Bring it to WORK!  Backyard telescopes and the NASA Asteroid Initiative– now that’s a conversation starter.

NASA has invited nearly 100 respondents to present their ideas and concepts during the Asteroid Initiative Idea Synthesis Workshop next week.  One of these participants, Phil, happens to live in Petaluma and brought his speech to our coffee social for a little test run. Phil’s “Asteroid Observation: A proposal for engaging more amateur astronomers in minor planet lightcurve imaging and analysis” also gets top billing– pretty impressive. Needless to say, the ideas were flying (pun intended) after hearing Phil’s proposal to mobilize the backyard enthusiast to observe asteroids.

So why all this interest in asteroids?  Well, after the hit in Siberia last February it’s not hard to imagine what devastation could occur if a similar meteor exploded over Manhattan.  There is also talk of ‘catching’ asteroids and putting them into orbit around the earth for easy access rare metal mining.  Wow!  Sounds so sci-fi, but apparently it’s not.

Computers have gotten very good at finding asteroids, but people are better at observing and “determining orbits, characterizing shape, rotation state, mass, and composition.” There are only a couple of hundred people worldwide in on this game right now, but if NASA could make it easy for space lovers across the globe to get involved, think how many eyes could be watching.

It’s even more exciting when you explore the potential to involve kids- natural outer space enthusiasts. Not only would this data collection be beneficial to scientists, but it could also revitalize public interest in space-science and create a whole new generation of explorers of the final frontier…

Written by Natasha Juliana, owner of WORK. Curious about working at WORK?  Try it for free… Curious about Coffee Social?  Join us Tuesdays at 10 AM.