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NASA Offers Bounty For Improved Asteroid Detection Algorithms 38

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dara Kerr reports at CNET that NASA is launching an 'Asteroid Data Hunter' contest to inspire the creation of algorithms that identify asteroids in images captured by ground-based telescopes. ... The winning solution must increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computer systems. 'Current asteroid detection initiatives are only tracking one percent of the estimated objects that orbit the Sun,' says Chris Lewicki. 'We are excited to partner with NASA in this contest to help increase the quantity and knowledge about asteroids that are potential threats, human destinations, or resource rich.' NASA's goal is to discover those unknown asteroids and then track and characterize them. For the contest, citizen scientists will be allowed to study images taken from ground-based telescopes to see if they can develop improved algorithms for identifying asteroids. If dangerous asteroids are found, NASA could determine if they'd be viable for a re-direction into a lunar orbit. 'For the past three years, NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills through the NASA Tournament Lab to solve tough problems,' said Jason Crusan, NASA Tournament Lab director. 'We are now applying our experience with algorithm contests to helping protect the planet from asteroid threats through image analysis.'"
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NASA Offers Bounty For Improved Asteroid Detection Algorithms

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    > NASA will give away $35,000 in awards to competition winners

    Big spenders! This really motivates me to get started.

    • by something_wicked_thi ( 918168 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:13AM (#46454279)

      I think they're spending too much. Everyone knows this is just another trumped up threat by scientists to get government to pay for scientists' extravagant lifestyles. But asteroids are by no means settled science. Just because 99% of astronomers agree that a large asteroid hitting the earth would result in devastating consequences for the human race, I know this chemist who saw an asteroid enter the earth's atmosphere and burn up harmlessly. Why, just the other day, I saw one shoot across the sky harmlessly.

      And don't try to tell me the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid. Everyone knows that volcanoes kill more dinosaurs every year than all the asteroids combined.

      These asteroid alarmists need to get a life and calm down.

  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @08:34AM (#46454019) Homepage Journal

    ... Who thinks this whole article is written like a freaking marketing PR announcement?

    I mean: "We are excited to partner with NASA" [...] "NASA has been learning and advancing the ability to leverage distributed algorithm and coding skills" [...] etc.

    Don't misunderstand me: the idea is great and, if they can detect more asteroids, faster, and with a better precision, we will all be better off in the long term. But I am just tired of these shockingly stupid buzzwords ("excited", "advancing", "leveraging", "coding skills", yadda, yadda, yadda).

    And get off my lawn!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Find intelligent people and HIRE THEM to come up with algorithms.

    • by plover ( 150551 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @08:52AM (#46454127) Homepage Journal

      I think they have intelligent people. What they're looking for is some outside perspective.

      When you've been staring at your own solution for years and years, it's good to have someone make you question it once in a while. They will no doubt get plenty of rookie and novice suggestions, the easy stuff they've long ago solved. They may even get some of the suggestions that took them a long time to understand and develop. What they're hoping for is something completely different. Maybe some grad student working on a new form of video compression will spot similarities that can be applied. Who knows?

  • * Determine if the asteroid's orbit collides with earth's
    * Launch a nuclear tipped rocket to disintegrate or deflect the asteroid

    IF not ,

    * Check if there are any valuable minerals on the asteroid .
    * Mine and launch the vehicle back to earth
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @09:03AM (#46454199) Journal

    Does the algorithm need to detect asteroids before or after they impact the earth?

    • Why am I imagining this as your answer?

      if(AstroidBoundingSphere.Intersects(EarthBoundingSphere)) LaunchCounterMeasures();

  • by schlachter ( 862210 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @10:17AM (#46454747)

    think about it, this is possibly one of the most important things that we as a society can do...protect our selves from the large number of inevitable asteroid strikes which will wipe out millions of people instantly.

    now it's being crowdsourced to the world, as it should be, and people bitch and moan. go save the world if you're the type and don't bitch about $35K not being enough to motivate you to save the world if you're a selfish jackass.

    • think about it, this is possibly one of the most important things that we as a society can do...protect our selves from the large number of inevitable asteroid strikes which will wipe out millions of people instantly.

      My car analogy is that this project is improving the detection of tractor trailers hitting park cars. Call me when the car can do something about it.

  • by StupendousMan ( 69768 ) on Tuesday March 11, 2014 @10:51AM (#46454985) Homepage

    If you're interested in the current state of the art, read this article from the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (April 2013). It describes the hardware and software used by the Pan-STARRS team to detect asteroids automatically in data taken with their 1.8-meter telescope on Hawaii and its 1.4-gigapixel CCD camera.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1302.7281 [arxiv.org]

    • MOPS is a very cool system and seems to be well-engineered, but it isn't quite state of the art - according to the performance numbers in section 3.12, it takes months to run simulations (with 100k or so objects), and it's a pipelined system (using Linux clusters), so there are multiple fairly beefy machines crunching the numbers. I know an astrophysicist that has a program that can do that in a night, on his laptop (not source, but... http://derastrodynamics.com/do... [derastrodynamics.com]). That being said, MOPs is (AFAIK) f
  • Why move a dangerous asteroid into lunar orbit? That's a little too close to home should something go wrong.
    If they want to study it, just send a probe to bring back pieces of it.

    • I was thinking the same thing, except I don't even want them that close. Fling them towards the sun and be done with it.
  • So I created this algorithm for NASA, and ummm, I guess I missed a decimal point somewhere cause it didn't pick up this big asteroid heading towards us.
    Anyway... probably want to spend some time with your loved ones today. I'm going to go empty a liquor store myself.

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