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Math Trek

Pinpointing Killer Asteroids

9:27am, March 25, 2004

Astronomers have identified more than 230,000 asteroids in orbit around the sun, and the number is increasing daily. Some of these objects are on courses that could lead to a collision with Earth. If the asteroid is sufficiently large, the results could be catastrophic.

Two finalists in this year's Intel Science Talent Search focused on methods for pinpointing the locations of asteroids—predicting where and when collisions could occur and determining the distance from Earth to any nearby object. In both cases, the high school students came up with methods that provide useful answers much more quickly than can other computational techniques now in use.

Andrei Munteanu of Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., developed a new method for computing t

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