Asteroid Data Hunter

Protecting the Earth from the threat of asteroid impacts means first knowing where they are. NASA & Planetary Resources are harnessing the incredible potential of innovators, makers and citizen scientists by opening up the search. In an increasingly connected world, NASA recognizes the value of the public as a partner in addressing some of the country’s most pressing challenges. We need your help in identifying asteroids Рand to help further this effort, we’ve built an application that enables everyone, everywhere, to help solve this global challenge.  

Download the App

The app is currently available for download for Windows (7.1+), Mac (10.10.X+) & Linux (Ubuntu) users. To download the app, please view below:

Who Should Download The App?

Currently, the app is targeted towards hobbyist and amateur astronomers who have their own telescopes.

Does The App Include Sample Images To Search Against?

The app does not come pre-bundled with test images, or the ability to download sample images – if you have access to a telescope and can take photos of the sky, you can upload these photos as long as they are in .FITS format. To view a sample set of test images, or to view the .FITS file format example, please click here to download the sample images.

How Do I Get Started?

  1. Download the User Guide, and learn how to install, launch and upload images into the app
  2. Download sample images that you can use within the app for to test how it works.
  3. Download an installer to help install the app on your computer. Click here for Windows, click here for Mac, and click here for Linux (Ubuntu).

What Do I Do If I Have Any Questions Or Find Bugs?

Please log a ticket using GitHub issue tracking. To log a defect or question, please click here.

Grab The Source Code From GitHub

The app falls under an Apache license, and is open source – so please feel free to download the source code, tinker and modify the app or algorithm as you see fit. To download the source code from GitHub, please click here.

About The App

Using the latest developments in machine learning algorithms, we have developed an algorithm that is capable of utilizing imagery data from modern telescopes to find more asteroids than has previously ever been possible.

This new method is approximately 15% better than the current method of identifying asteroids in the main belt (Asteroids that orbit between Mars & Jupiter).

The algorithm is capable of running on a common laptop/desktop. Algorithms like these will be used on future spacecraft to identify asteroids to maximize the capability of missions in the future.

The application contains a user interface that anyone can use without too much of a learning curve for new users. It’s also easy to install and comes with a one-click installation process (no configuration necessary!). For the expert user, full documentation and source code are available for modifications and tweaking.

Project 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‚Äô mission, which is to harness the resources in NEOs to extend humanity‚Äôs economic sphere of influence into the Solar System ‚Äď 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.

Project Details

  • Timeline – launched in March, 2014, and completed in January, 2015 (10 ¬Ĺ months)
  • Open Source – The source code is open source and available for anyone to download and modify.

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 ‚Äď 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.

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