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Bruce BettsDecember 18, 2019

Announcing the 2019 Shoemaker NEO Grant Winners

I am happy to announce the latest round of winners in our Shoemaker Near Earth Object (NEO) Grant program, named after pioneering planetary geologist Gene Shoemaker. Shoemaker grants support very advanced amateur astronomers around the world in their efforts to find, track, and characterize near Earth asteroids. 

The world's professional sky surveys alone cannot handle the burden of defending the Earth from potentially dangerous asteroids. Our Shoemaker grant winners contribute in particular to two areas of planetary defense: 

This round’s winners continue a long tradition of Planetary Society-supported planetary defense, protecting the Earth from the threat of asteroid impacts. In this round of grants, 6 proposals are awarded a total of $57,906. The winners are from 4 countries on 3 continents. Over the 22-year history of the program, approximately $440,000 has been granted to 62 winners in 19 countries on 6 continents. 

We are sincerely grateful to our expert advisory/review panel: Planetary Society NEO Grant Coordinator Tim Spahr, NEO Sciences LLC; Davide Farnocchia, JPL Center for NEO Studies; Alan Harris, More Data!; Joanna Levine, NEO Sciences, LLC; Tim Lister, Las Cumbres Observatory; Michael Schwartz, Tenagra Observatories; Quan-Zhi Ye, University of Maryland.

Here are summaries of the winners.

Leonardo Scanferla Amaral

Leonardo Scanferla Amaral

Leonardo Scanferla Amaral
Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant winner Leonardo Scanferla Amaral.
Observatório Campo dos Amarais (OCA)

Leonardo Scanferla Amaral

Observatório Campo dos Amarais (OCA)
A 2019 Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant will help Observatório Campo dos Amarais (OCA) in Brazil study near-Earth asteroids in the very southern skies that are not seen by the current major asteroid survey telescopes.

Leonardo Scanferla Amaral, of Observatório Campo dos Amarais (OCA) in Brazil is awarded $8,443 for a telescope mount that will provide much greater stability, enabling longer camera exposures, as well as increased tracking capability. OCA’s location makes it particularly important for its view of the very southern sky for which few telescopes are positioned to regularly study in pursuit of near Earth asteroid observations. OCA has even discovered 3 NEOs—all in the southernmost sky—that were not seen by the current major asteroid survey telescopes. 

Osservatorio Astronomico della Montagna Pistoiese

Paolo Bacci

Osservatorio Astronomico della Montagna Pistoiese
Asteroid researchers at the Osservatorio Astronomico della Montagna Pistoiese in Italy received a 2019 Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant. From left: Martina Maestripieri, Luciano Tesi, and Paolo Bacci (principal investigator).

Paulo Bacci and Luciano Tesi and Martina Maestripieri, of the Gruppo Astrofili Montagna Pistoiese (GAMP) at the Osservatorio Astronomico della Montagna Pistoiese in Italy, are awarded $8,000 for equipment including dome control and weather monitoring hardware and software to adapt their 0.6-meter telescope to remote operation. Their observatory has been extremely productive for rapid follow-up observations of newly discovered NEOs. Introducing remote control will increase observing time for this observatory run by a group of amateur astronomers. 

Russell Durkee

Russell Durkee

Russell Durkee
Shoemaker NEO Grant recipient Russell Durkee.

Russell Durkee, of the Shed of Science Observatory in the United States, is awarded $12,799 for a new camera on a 0.5-meter (20-inch) telescope to replace the aging camera purchased with a 2010 Shoemaker grant. The new camera also cools more efficiently, which is helpful since in 2018 the observatory moved to a dark site in Texas from Minnesota. The system will be used primarily for photometry measurements used to determine light curves (asteroid brightness overtime) that facilitate the determination of spin rates and the discovery of binary asteroids. Durkee is a high school teacher by day and also uses his observatory to mentor young astronomers.

Michel Ory

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Randy Flynn

Randy Flynn

Randy Flynn
Shoemaker NEO Grant recipient Randy Flynn.

Randy L. Flynn, of Squirrel Valley Observatory (SVO) in the United States, is awarded $6,139 for components to automate the observatory including an automated roof system and observatory automation software that will enable a significant increase in observing time. SVO, in North Carolina, focuses on astrometric tracking measurements that facilitate orbit determination, particularly for newly discovered asteroids.

Korado Korlević

Korado Korlević

Korado Korlević
Shoemaker NEO Grant recipient Korado Korlević.
Višnjan Observatory

Višnjan Observatory

Višnjan Observatory
A 2019 Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant will help Višnjan Observatory in Croatia perform astrometric measurements of newly discovered near-Earth objects. The observatory also hosts educational visits by middle and high school students.

Korado Korlević, of Višnjan Observatory in Croatia, is awarded $10,825 to recoat the observatory’s telescope’s 1-meter mirror, and to purchase a new coma corrector and associated hardware. The results will enable observing much dimmer objects (to magnitude 22.4) and will expand significantly the usable field of view. The Višnjan Observatory focuses on follow-up astrometric measurements of newly discovered near-Earth objects. They contributed to the follow-up of more than 1400 NEOs in the last two years. The Observatory also hosts educational visits by middle and high school students.

Alessandro Nastasi

Alessandro Nastasi

Alessandro Nastasi
Shoemaker NEO Grant recipient Alessandro Nastasi.

Alessandro Nastasi, and Sabrina Masiero and Mario Di Martino of the GAL Hassin Astronomical Center in Italy on the island of Sicily is awarded $11,700 for a new dome and timekeeping system. The robotically controlled dome will house a 0.4-meter telescope with corrected wide field optics particularly conducive to astrometric observations of fast (meaning relatively nearby) NEOs. The telescope will move from its current shared facility with educational telescopes to the dedicated dome. Robotic control will enable more observing time. The dual timekeeping system will allow very precise coordinated observations between that telescope and their new 1-meter telescope located 8 kilometers away.

Best wishes to all our winners for successful observing, and thanks to all of our proposers. There were more great proposals than funding available.

Read more: Shoemaker NEO Grants

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
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