NASA Planetary Defense: Backyard Asteroid Observer

[ ♪ ] Westfield, Illinois.
Home to 601 people. And one of the largest privately-owned telescopes
in the world. We do follow-up observations with NASA’s near-Earth object
observations program. All night long, I’m
running big telescopes. One’s a 24-inch, a 30-inch,
and a 32-inch. And then the 50-inch is my…
my biggest telescope. Having four telescopes
allows me really to do four times as much work as
the typical observatory that just has one telescope. So it is a… a huge advantage. Bob made 36,000
observations in 2015. (The most by anyone
in a single year.) I work on a nightly basis and I use these telescopes
to look at asteroids. We do follow-up observations
for the discoveries that are made by the
large sky surveys. By looking at these asteroids
and measuring these asteroids we can determine what their
posssibilities of actually hitting the Earth
in the future are going to be. NASA provides coordinates
of specific objects that they need observations on. I’m gonna punch in the
coordinates here and I’m doing this remotely from
inside a control room [ computer keys click ] not at the telescope. And so we look these objects up
and then use those coordinates to look at a tiny
piece of the sky that this object
happens to be in. And then we follow those objects and define and refine orbits
for those objects and reduce the uncertainty of
where it’s going to go in the near future. I started off as a
volunteer in 2006. It’s just blossomed into a
full-time opportunity to work for NASA under
their grant program, where I’m now doing this
every single clear night. Now we’re starting the
observing run for 2017 KK3. You don’t build a telescope
that’s this big without having… being
passionate about what you do. I’m really driven to be a part
of a program that’s important and has importance
to the future. And we’re not talking about
next year or the year after. We’re talking about
asteroids that could potentially hit the Earth
100 years from now. And the work we do today
may make a difference 100 years from now. [ ♪ ] NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute
of Technology


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