Grants Provide Vital Funding To The International Asteroid-Tracking Community To Track and Characterize Asteroids Posing Threats to Humanity
PASADENA, CA, (November 20, 2012) - The Planetary Society, the largest space interest group in the world, today issued a Call for Proposals to award the 2013 Shoemaker Near Earth Object (NEO) Grants.
The deadline for proposal submission is February 4, 2013. Submission information is located online at http://planetary.org/programs/projects/neo_grants/
While nearly 90 percent of the estimated total number of one-kilometer or larger NEOs that cross Earth's orbit have been discovered, many smaller objects that could cause regional devastation still need to be identified and adequately tracked. The Shoemaker NEO awards, typically in the range of $3,000-$10,000 each, have proven instrumental in providing the necessary seed funding for amateur and professional astronomers to enable their work in tracking the orbits and identifying the characteristics of asteroids that could pose threats to humanity.
"Applicants and winners of the Shoemaker grants provide tens of thousands of follow-up NEO observations each year, contributing critical information we need to determine NEO orbits," said Bruce Betts, Director of Projects for The Planetary Society. "You can know an asteroid is out there from a large professional survey discovery, but you can't determine if it poses a threat to Earth without follow-up tracking to define the orbit of the asteroid as well as its characteristics. The Shoemaker NEO grants not only help provide this critical information, but also importantly expand the community of amateur astronomers and observers making vital contributions."
NEOs have collided violently with Earth throughout the planet's history. Many scientists believe an impact off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and just last century, in 1908, a 40-meter asteroid over Siberia created devastation equivalent to a large nuclear weapon. Had that impact not been in desolate Siberia, it could have resulted in catastrophic loss of human life and property.
Funding for the Shoemaker NEO awards is provided through generous contributions of The Planetary Society members and supporters and to date more than $225,000 has been provided. Celebrating its 15th year, the Shoemaker NEO awards have funded 38 awards to 33 individuals in 16 countries on five continents. Important discoveries include the co-discovery of Apophis, discovery of the naked eye Comet Lulin, and the asteroid 2012 DA14, a roughly 50 meter asteroid that will pass Earth in February 2013, at about the distance of our geostationary communication satellites. More information on past winners is provided at here.
About The Planetary Society
The Planetary Society has inspired millions of people to explore other worlds and seek other life. Today, its international membership makes the non-governmental Planetary Society the largest space interest group in the world. Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society in 1980. Bill Nye, a long time member of the Planetary Society's Board, serves as CEO.
Since its founding, The Planetary Society has actively supported a number of efforts to discover and characterize the population of NEOs that both threaten our planet and hold great promise for future exploration. In 1997, the Society began the Gene Shoemaker NEO grant program named for pioneering planetary geologist Gene Shoemaker, whose lifetime of discoveries have significantly helped scientists to understand the process by which asteroids impact planets, and the nature of the NEO population.
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