Asteroid Data Hunter

The Asteroid Data Hunter challenge tasks competitors to develop an algorithm that is capable of identifying asteroids using images from ground-based telescopes. Our objective is to increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and ensure that the algorithm can run effectively on all computers  

Overview

The Asteroid Data Hunter challenge tasks competitors to develop an algorithm that is capable of identifying asteroids using images from ground-based telescopes. Our objective is to increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and ensure that the algorithm can run effectively on all computers – and we’re about 75% of the way there.

Background

Asteroids pose both a possible threat and an opportunity for Earth: they could impact us, causing damage, OR possibly be mined for resources that could help extend our ability to explore the universe.

Since 1998 NASA has led the global search for Near Earth Objects (NEOs) through its Near Earth Object Observation Program. NASA has also led the federal government in researching how crowdsourcing can help solve tough problems through efforts like the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) supported through a contract with Harvard University and topcoder.

This fits in perfectly with Planetary Resources’ mission, which is to harness the resources in NEOs to extend humanity’s economic sphere of influence into the Solar System – so naturally, a non-exclusive partnership between Planetary Resources and NASA was developed with the goal of working together to improve asteroid detection by using crowd sourced algorithms.

How Does Asteroid Detection Currently Work?

Scientists find asteroids by taking images of the same place in the sky and find the starlike objects that move. With many telescopes scanning the sky during the time around the new moon, the large data volumes prevent individual inspection of every image. Traditionally, the identification of asteroids and other moving bodies in the Solar System has been achieved by acquiring images over several epochs and detecting changes between frames. This general approach has been used since before the discovery of Pluto and continues to this day.

Why Did We Launch The ADH Challenge?

With the vast amount of data available now flowing from modern instruments, there is no good way for professional astronomers to verify every detection. In particular, looking in the future as large surveys grow ever larger, the ability to autonomously and rapidly check the images and determine which objects are suitable for follow up will be crucial. There is a long history to adapting programs to find these moving objects with some improvements along the way. For example, the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) uses a crowded field galaxy photometry program (Source Extractor) that identifies centroids of targets that are distinctly separate from other objects. This output is fed into a custom program that sees which sources move. However, analysis implies that at best the CSS data pipeline is 80 – 90% accurate and there are (based on CSS discovery numbers) several thousand additional objects that could be recovered per year. Starting from a fresh position allows specific optimizations of data analysis, which would be useful as a general moving object pipeline system for other observatories as well.

Current Project Status

Our first contest kicked off in March of 2014 and over the last 8 months, we’ve developed two different versions of an algorithm and are now actively working to complete the project (targeting December, 2014).

Objectives

Develop an original algorithm that will allow the discovery of new asteroids by analyzing images.
Create software that is so easy that citizen scientists, hobbyist astronomers and even professional organizations/institutions will want to download it.
Ensure that the new algorithm can help to increase the amount of asteroids being detected.

What will the final software look like?

  • It will be open source and able to run effectively and within a reasonable amount of time on a common everyday laptop.
  • It will contain a super-simple user interface that anyone can use.
  • It will be open source (folks can tinker, expand and improve the software if they opt to).
  • It will be easy-to-install using a one-click installation process.
  • It will contain a user guide to help support the asteroid-detection initiative.

Project Plan

So what’s coming up, and how do I register? Simply select any of the contest names below to find out more about each specific contest, and register to participate.

Name Contest Type Start End Status
Create Marathon Match Problem Statement Content Creation 03/17/2014 04/04/2014 Completed
Marathon Match Phase 1 Marathon Match 05/07/2014 05/14/2014 Completed
GUI Wireframes Wireframes 08/10/2014 08/25/2014 Completed
Create Storyboards (UI Design) Application Front-End Design 08/25/2014 09/08/2014 Completed
Marathon Match Phase 2 Marathon Match 09/17/2014 09/18/2014 Completed
System Architecture Architecture 09/30/2014 10/19/2014 Completed
Back End Services Module Assembly Assembly Competition 10/18/2014 11/03/2014 In-progress
Front End Module Assembly Assembly Competition 11/04/2014 11/20/2014 Not Yet Started
Find Issues & Defects Bug Hunt 11/21/2014 11/28/2014 Not Yet Started
Fix Defects Assembly Competition 11/30/2014 12/16/2014 Not Yet Started
Project Delivery 12/22/2014 12/22/2014

*PLEASE NOTE: The contest start and end dates are estimates only, and may shift forward or backwards depending on contest progress. To verify a contest start date, please select the contest name to view the registration page.

 

Resources

Project Personnel

Chris Lewicki
President & Chief Asteroid Miner
Planetary Resources

Mr. Lewicki has been intimately involved with the lifecycle of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers and the Phoenix Mars Lander. Lewicki performed system engineering development and participated in Show more

Matthew Beasley
Senior Optical Systems Engineer, Staff Astronomer
Planetary Resources

Dr. Matthew Beasley is a core team member at Planetary Resources, Inc. He completed a Ph.D. in Astrophysics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He was the Principal Investigator of the University of Colorado ultraviolet sounding rocket program and oversaw six Show more

.

Karim R. Lakhani
Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
Principal Investigator, Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

Karim R. Lakhani is the Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School and the Principal Investigator of the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab at the Institute for Quantitative Show more

Rinat Sergeev
Data Scientist, Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab
Institute of Quantitative Social Sciences, Harvard

Dr. Rinat Sergeev is a Data Scientist at the Harvard-NASA Tournament Lab (NTL). Rinat works as a lead science and technical expert on exploring and utilizing crowdsourcing approaches in application to Big Data challenges,Show more

Jason Crusan
Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division
NASA Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate

As Director for the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Division with the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jason Crusan is the senior executive, manager, principle advisor and advocate on technology Show more

Tim Spahr
Director, Minor Planet Center
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Dr. Tim Spahr has been studying asteroids and comets since the early 1990s, and his personal interest in these objects started 15 years before that. Spahr is the Director of the International Astronomical Union Minor Show more

Victoria Friedensen
Program Lead, Robotic Precursor Mission
NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Division

Victoria Pidgeon Friedensen is a member of the Advanced Exploration Systems Division at NASA HQ and leads the Robotic Precursor Activities domain: a diverse portfolio of flight system and instrument development Show more

Partnerships


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