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.
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.
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.