The interesting article “Survey probes cosmos from near to far” set me to tilting at windmills. Even before it’s completed, the professional astronomers managing the Sloan Digital Sky Survey should enlist amateur astronomers as asteroid hunters in a way similar to how they’re mobilized by the SETI@home project to search for intelligent signals from space. Let’s call the effort Project Dark Skies.
Those who have the necessary equipment would remap tiny portions of the sky and, using supplied software, compare current images with old images to detect asteroids and comets. Once alerted, NASA might have sufficient warning to detect potential Earth-crossing objects, if any threaten our planet.
Confirmation of an asteroid hunter’s find would entitle the discoverer to a share of the credit and the opportunity to name the object. That should be sufficient inducement for both amateur and professional astronomers to participate in Project Dark Skies. And asteroid hunters might see themselves as Defenders of Life on Our Planet.