Credit: B612 Foundation/Asteroid Institute/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Asteroid Institute, a program of the B612 Foundation, announced today it is using a groundbreaking computational technique running on its Asteroid Discovery Analysis and Mapping (ADAM) cloud-based astrodynamics platform to discover and track asteroids.

The upshot: The Minor Planet Center has confirmed and added the first 104 of these newly discovered asteroids to its registry. That opens the door for Asteroid Institute-supported researchers to submit thousands of additional new discoveries. 

Credit: B612 Foundation/Asteroid Institute

Massive computation

ADAM is an open-source computational system that runs astrodynamics algorithms using  the scalable computational and storage capabilities in Google Compute Engine, Google Cloud Storage, and Google Kubernetes Engine.

THOR (Tracklet-less Heliocentric Orbit Recovery) is a novel algorithm used to discover these new asteroids. It links points of light in different sky images that are consistent with asteroid orbits.

“With THOR running on ADAM, any telescope with an archive can now become an asteroid search telescope,” said Asteroid Institute Executive Director Ed Lu. “We are using the power of massive computation to enable not only more discoveries from existing telescopes, but also to find and track asteroids in historical images of the sky that had gone previously unnoticed because they were never intended for asteroid searches,” he said in a press statement.

The threat of Near Earth Objects (NEOs).
Credit: NASA

Collaborative effort

Danica Remy, President of B612, said this new technological milestone was achieved through a collaborative effort with the University of Washington and Google Cloud.

“Rather than looking to the sky, we’ve developed a way to look at historical data sets to discover asteroids and calculate their orbits,” Remy said in an email. “This key technology we have been building lays the foundation for future commerce, and exploration in space as well as to help protect our home planet from asteroid impacts.”

NOIRLab’s current and potential future system of observatories and data-driven exploration tools.

What is next for ADAM/THOR?

The discoveries announced today were made while searching only a small fraction – less than 0.5% – of the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab dataset – a dataset that’s produced by ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy facilities.

Asteroid Institute researchers are already at work searching the rest of the NOIRLab data set for asteroids as well as looking at mining other datasets. “With ADAM/THOR, we expect to discover and contribute orbits for tens of thousands of previously missed objects,” according to an Asteroid Institute factsheet.

Go to this informative video regarding this effort at:

For more information on the B612 Foundation and the Asteroid Institute, go to:

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