NASA has released a new desktop application for asteroid detection, developed by NASA and Planetary Resources Inc. based on an algorithm from NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge.

Amateur astronomers can use the application to analyze images. The application will tell the user whether a matching asteroid record exists and offer a way to report new findings to the Minor Planet Center, which confirms and archives new discoveries.

The desktop application, which is free, currently runs on Macintosh and Windows computers. A Linux version is coming soon. The application can be downloaded at

The improved algorithm has the potential to increase the number of new asteroid discoveries by amateur astronomers. Analysis of main-belt asteroid images using the algorithm showed a 15 percent increase in positive identifications.

The application was announced during a panel discussion at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas on Sunday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on March 16th, 2015 , Astronomy, Planetary Defense, Planetary Resources

Asteroid Gaspra

NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series will offer $35,000 in awards to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.

This six-month contest series will conducted in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc. The first contest in the series will kick off on March 17. Prior to the kickoff, competitors can create an account on the contest series website and learn more about the rules and different phases of the contest series by going to this website.

Managed by the NASA Tournament Lab, the contest series runs through August. It is the first contest series contributing to the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on March 10th, 2014 , Astronomy, Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources Arkyd-100 space telescope

Planetary Resources has announced a Kickstarter campaign for its Akryd-100 space telescope.

The Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy” Eric Berger asks whether asking the public to fork over $1 million for a private space telescope is destined to fail. Less than one day after the announcement, Planetary Resources has received over $370,000 in pledges, so right now, it seems like it’s destined to succeed.

Berger says, “the public’s appetite for philanthropy toward space exploration is about to be tested.” It should be noted that what Planetary Resources is offering is not, strictly speaking, philanthropy. It is pre-selling services, which seem to be quite popular, based on the initial response. (It should also be noted that most large telescopes are funded by philanthropic donations, which far exceed $1 million.)

Written by Astro1 on May 30th, 2013 , Planetary Resources

Dr. Vlada Stamenkovic, a post-doctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, plans to use the Arkyd-100 space telescopes, being developed by Planetary Resources, to help find planets orbiting other stars.

The search for exoplanets is one of the most exciting fields of research for astronomy and astrobiology. We’re constantly amazed that NASA isn’t doing more in this area.


Written by Astro1 on August 23rd, 2012 , Innovation, Planetary Resources

If there is an international space race (something we’re not at all certain of), the European Space Agency just made a strategic move to pass by approving construction of the Euclid space telescope.

Never mind the recent hype about China and thr first crewing of the Tiangong space station. Space races are mostly about public relations. Even Apollo was about PR. (You didn’t think landing Neil Armstrong on the Moon really affected the Cold War balance of power, did you?) The public doesn’t  care much about the International Space Station, and there’s no reason to think the China’s (smaller, less capable) space station will generate any long-term interest, either. Ask most people what NASA’s greatest accomplishment is, and they’re more likely to say “Hubble” than “ISS.”

Hubble will be retired in a few years, however, and NASA has no plans for a replacement. No, we’re not forgetting JWST. The James Webb Space Telescope has been billed as a replacement for Hubble, but it isn’t. JWST is an infrared telescope; it won’t produce the sort of visible-light images that made Hubble so immensely popular. Once JWST is in orbit and the public realizes that fact, buyer’s remorse is likely to set in. We’re not sure NASA though this one through.

NASA recently took delivery of two Hubble-class telescopes originally built for the National Reconnaissance Office. Unfortunately,  it can’t afford to launch either one of them due to JWST overruns and  “monster rocket” expenditures eating up the NASA budget.

So, ESA’s approval of the Euclid space telescope is a timely move. With a 576-megapixel visible camera and optical resolution comparable to Hubble, Euclid will be positioned to take over Hubble’s role as the public’s favorite telescope. In government space programs, image is everything, and there’s little doubt Euclid will produce stunning images.

Still, it’s a bit disappointing to see a government space agency investing a billion dollars in a conventional Hubble replacement instead of pioneering new technology like optical interferometry. To misquote an old saying, give a man a telescope, and he will observe for a day; develop the technology to build better, cheaper telescopes, and he will observe for the rest of all time.

That’s one of the reasons Planetary Resources’ planned Arkyd-100 telescope constellation is so interesting. A large of number of relatively modest, but low-cost, space telescopes could be a game changer. A recent blog post from the company suggests Arkyd-100 may give amateur and professional astronomers the chance to take a directed picture of an object of their choice for just $100, compared to over $10,000 for other space telescopes.

Written by Astro1 on June 21st, 2012 , Astronomy, Innovation, Planetary Resources

Planetary Resources has shown a roadmap for its future missions. Not surprisingly, the near-term missions are much better defined. Details on the final phase (asteroid mining) are hard to come by. That’s not surprising at this point. As Planetary Resources says, “Recovery and processing of materials… will occur through significant research and development.”

Yet, they’ve apparently determined one detail already. At yesterday’s press conference, it was stated that all of their projects (presumably including the mining phase) would be robotic. That’s not unexpected given the technical team. Chris Lewicki and Cris Voorhees come from the robots uber ulles branch of space science. If they’re successful, capturing and moving an asteroid would be the largest single project ever undertaken entirely by robotics. It remains to be seen whether that’s possible or whether Planetary Resources will ultimately change its plans and accept the need to have humans onsite for supervision and troubleshooting. There’s still plenty of time for mid-course corrections, of course, since any asteroid capture is years away.

Planetary Resources robot captures water-rich asteroid


Written by Astro1 on April 25th, 2012 , Planetary Resources Tags: ,

Planetary Resources Inc., formerly Arkyd Astronautics, revealed a ambitious multistage plan to harvest extraterrestrial resources during a press held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA.

The company, based in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, has been working quietly for the last three years to develop the plan, which includes space telescopes in Earth orbit, probes to investigate near-Earth asteroids, and ultimately a system to capture an asteroid and return it to Earth orbit.

Asteroid resources include water for use in space and scarce metals for use on Earth. A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the Platinum Group Metals mined in history, according to Planetary Resources.

“Many of the scarce metals and minerals on Earth are in near-infinite quantities in space,” said Peter Diamandis, co-founder and co-chairman the board. “As access to these materials increases, not only will the cost of everything from microelectronics to energy storage be reduced, but new applications for these abundant elements will result in important and novel applications.”


The first phase in the plan would involve launching a series of Arkyd 100 space telescopes into Low Earth Orbit. Each Arkyd telescope would cost a few million dollars, including launch. Arkyd satellites are designed for rideshare missions and do not require dedicated launches.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Astro1 on April 24th, 2012 , Planetary Resources Tags: