Amateur Astronomers to 'Target Asteroids!'
Some will use custom-made, often automated telescopes equipped with CCD cameras in their backyards. Others will use home computers to make remote observations with more powerful telescopes states or continents away. Many belong to leading national and international amateur astronomy organizations with members ranging from retirees to school kids.
Researchers on NASA's robotic asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx, are turning to amateur astronomers for new data on near-Earth asteroids in a citizen science observing campaign called Target Asteroids! The campaign starts in this month and will last at least to the end of this decade.
The full name of the OSIRIS-REx mission is Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is to launch in 2016, reach a well-characterized primitive asteroid called 1999 RQ36 in 2019, examine that body up close during a 505-day rendezvous, then return at least 60 grams of it to Earth in 2023.
"Asteroids are a rich and accessible historic archive of the origin of our solar system and life, a valuable source of mineral resources, and potentially hazardous Earth impactors that civilization must learn to deal with," said OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. "Our mission will address all these issues."
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