In this challenge, we are tasking competitors with developing a significantly improved algorithm to identify asteroids in images from ground-based telescopes. The winning solution will increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computers
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.
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 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.
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.
Partnership between NASA & Planetary Resources
NASA and Planetary Resources Inc., are partnering to develop crowd-sourced software solutions to enhance detection of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) using NASA-funded data. The agreement is NASA’s first partnership associated with NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge.
Planetary Resources will facilitate the use of NASA-funded sky survey data and help support the algorithm competition and review results. NASA will develop and manage the contests and explore use of the best solutions for enhancing existing survey programs.
Through NASA’s asteroid initiative, NASA is enhancing its ongoing efforts to identify and characterize Near-Earth Object’s (NEOs) for scientific investigation, find asteroids potentially hazardous to Earth and find candidates viable for redirection to a stable orbit near the moon as a destination for exploration by astronauts.
The algorithm contests are managed and executed by NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI). CoECI was established at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to advance NASA open innovation efforts and extend that expertise to other federal agencies. CoECI uses the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) for its advanced algorithmic and software development contests. Through its contract with Harvard Business School in association with Harvard’s Institute of Quantitative Social Sciences, NTL uses the topcoder platform to enable a community of over 600,000 competitors to create the most innovative, efficient and optimized solutions for specific, real-world challenges faced by NASA.
High Level Requirements
This challenge will devise a solution that improves moving object routines, both in terms of absolute efficiency, but also decrease computation requirements to allow more modest machines to adequately perform moving object detection.
The following requirements must be met:
- Properly ignore imperfections and artifacts in the data.
- Identify moving objects utilizing a time series of four images of the sky
- Recover the accurate astrometry of the moving object (RA, Dec, etc.)
Atomized 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.
Contest Start End Contest Type Winner Asteroid Data Hunter – Phase 1 – Create Marathon Match Problem Statement 3/17/2014 4/2/2014 Content Creation razvanc87 Asteroid Data Hunter – Phase 1 – Marathon Match 4/18/2014 5/2/2014 Marathon Match alegro Asteroid Data Hunter – Phase 2 – Marathon Match (registration link not yet available) 7/14/2014 8/06/2014 Marathon Match Project Delivery 8/29/2014
*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.
- Video: Every Asteroid Discovered Since 1980.
- NASA Asteroid & Comet Watch.
- Planetary Resources.
- NASA-JPL Near Earth Object Program.
- JPL – Keeping an Eye on Space Rocks.
- International Astronomical Union (IAU) Minor Planet Center.
- NASA Science Mission Directorate.
- JPL Solar System Dynamics.
President & Chief Asteroid Miner
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 moreassembly, test and launch operations for both Mars missions. He was Flight Director for the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the Surface Mission Manager for Phoenix. The recipient of two NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals, Lewicki has an asteroid named in his honor: 13609 Lewicki. Chris holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona. At Planetary Resources, Mr. Lewicki is responsible for the strategic development of the company’s mission and vision, engagement with customers and the scientific community, serves as technical compass, and leads day to day operations.
Senior Optical Systems Engineer, Staff Astronomer
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 morelaunches that resulted in two Ph.D.’s and several scientific publications. In addition to his sub-orbital experience he was part of the instrument team for the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (currently installed on the Hubble Space Telescope). He moved to Planetary Resources in 2012 and there has spent his time designing optical instrumentation for attitude control, laser communication, and asteroid evaluation
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 moreSocial Science. He specializes in the management of technological innovation in firms and communities. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He has extensively studied the emergence of open source software communities and their unique innovation and product development strategies. He has also investigated how critical knowledge from outside of the organization can be accessed through innovation contests. Currently Professor Lakhani is investigating incentives and behavior in contests and the mechanisms behind scientific team formation through field experiments on the topcoder platform and the Harvard Medical School.
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 morefaced by NASA and Government. In his role, Rinat provides full guidance and support on all aspects of the project from problem definition/formulation, to resolving all issues through execution, working closely with all parties involved. Rinat received his PhD in Physics of Semiconductors in Ioffe Institute, Saint Petersburg. Following his innate curiosity, he pursued challenges in a variety of academic fields, from Quantum-Mechanical Processes to Immunology and Epidemiology. His research interests include conceptual analysis, analytical approaches and models in multiple areas. Currently, Rinat is a growing specialist of machine-learning algorithms and algorithmic challenges. His personal interests include Math puzzles, strategic games and politics.
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 moreand innovation approaches leading to new flight and system capabilities for human exploration. He serves as the AES Senior Manager, leading the 500-600 Civil Servants with an active portfolio of 20-30 engineering and design projects. He leads integration with the Space Technology Mission Directorate and the other HEOMD programs such as the International Space Station and the Exploration System Division Programs. Crusan holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Electrical Engineering and Physics, a Master’s in Computer Information Systems, and is currently a candidate for a Ph.D. in Engineering Management at George Washington University. Mr. Crusan is married and has two children.
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 morePlanet Center, operated at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The MPC is the world’s nerve center for asteroid and comet observations. Prior to his work at the MPC, Spahr was a member of the original Catalina Sky Survey team during 1998-2000, where he wrote software to detect moving objects in CCD frames, as well as measure their positions precisely. Tim’s dissertation research was completed at the University of Florida studying celestial mechanics and observational biases present in asteroid surveys.
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 moreprojects, research and analysis efforts, and mission concept studies that provide critical data to inform system and mission design to directly enable NASA’s human exploration program. Ms Friedensen’s last robotic mission, LCROSS, verified that there is water on the Moon, for which she received a NASA Exceptional Service award. In addition to flight project management, Ms. Friedensen specializes in risk management and social policy. As an anthropologist specializing in culture and risk perception, Ms. Friedensen’s work focuses on the interface between technology and society by understanding social acceptance of technologies and risk. She brings expertise in public perception of risk to the Asteroid Data Hunter project. Ms. Friedensen was born in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and calls herself a ‘NASA-brat’. She holds degrees in anthropology and science and technology policy.