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Program type
Planetary Defense
Funding to date
$440,000
Grants to date
62
Program status
Active

The Planetary Society's Shoemaker NEO Grant program helps find, track and characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs) to determine which pose a threat to Earth. Since 1997, we've awarded 62 grants to amateur and professional astronomers from 19 countries on 6 continents who make meaningful contributions to the defense of our planet.

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The world's professional sky surveys alone cannot handle the burden of finding and tracking the estimated 10 million NEOs larger than 20 meters, the size of the asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk, Russia and caused city-wide damage. That's where our Shoemaker grant winners come in. They find new NEOs, track and measure existing ones, and contribute to the field of asteroid science by determining characteristics like spin rates and whether one asteroid is actually a binary pair.

In recent years, our asteroid hunters have helped NASA confirm a rare double asteroid, observed a fast-spinning asteroid that rotates every 3.5 minutes, and imaged the interstellar asteroid ʻOumuamua that visited our solar system in 2017. We awarded our last round of grants in December 2019.

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Hunting for Dangerous Asteroids

Bob Stephens from California tracks and characterizes dangerous near-Earth asteroids. The equipment needed for such a task doesn't last forever. With help from our members, asteroid hunters can upgrade their equipment to make sure we find asteroids before they find us.

Where are our asteroid hunters?

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2018 winners

In 2019 we awarded $57,906 to 6 applicants from 4 countries.

ObserverObservatoryLocationAmount
Leonardo Scanferla Amaral Observatório Campo dos Amarais (OCA) Brazil $8,443
Paulo Bacci Osservatorio Astronomico della Montagna Pistoiese Italy $8,000
Russell Durkee Shed of Science Observatory United States $12,799
Randy L. Flynn Squirrel Valley Observatory (SVO) United States $6,139
Korado Korlević Višnjan Observatory Croatia $10,825
Alessandro Nastasi GAL Hassin Astronomical Center Italy $11,700

Gene Shoemaker, 1928-1997

Our grants honor pioneering planetary geologist Gene Shoemaker, who helped uncover the process of impact cratering and was an early advocate for near-Earth object sky surveys.

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