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Bruce BettsJune 15, 2012

Hunting Asteroids from a Field in Kansas

Yesterday morning, NPR's Morning Edition ran a nice radio segment about Gary Hug, hard core amateur astronomer and winner of a 2009 Planetary Society Shoemaker Near Earth Object (NEO) grant winner. I also appear in a quick sound bite.

Shoemaker NEO Winner Gary Hug
Shoemaker NEO Winner Gary Hug
Gary Hug of Kansas, USA. Winner of a 2009 Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant.

Gary is one of the more than 30 astronomers who have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in Shoemaker NEO grants to improve their ability to study near Earth objects. Grants typically upgrade hardware at existing facilities to take observers to the next level in NEO finding, tracking, and/or characterization. The radio piece gives you a nice sense of Gary's backyard, or back-field, observatory. As Gary discusses, most NEOs are currently found by professional surveys, though not all (e.g., next year's very close passing asteroid 2012 DA14 was found by Shoemaker NEO winners in Spain). One of the key necessary roles that observers like Gary fill is follow up observations, which are crucial to determining orbits. It doesn't do you any good in Earth protection if you know an asteroid is out there but don't know if it is on a collision course with Earth.

Gary Hug's Sandlot Observatory

Gary Hug

Gary Hug's Sandlot Observatory
Sandlot Observatory built and run by Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO grant winner Gary Hug in Kansas, USA. The top of the 22 inch telescope can be seen in this home built "backyard" observatory which also now includes an advanced camera purchased through a 2009 Shoemaker NEO grant.

So, take a listen to this three and a half minute piece about Gary's aptly named Sandlot Observatory with its 22 inch telescope, and with a camera provided by Planetary Society members.

Read more: near-Earth asteroids, Planetary Society Projects, comets, Earth impact hazard, asteroids, Shoemaker NEO Grants

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
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