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How Members Of The Public Helped Hubble Find Thousands Of Asteroids
In citizen science projects, members of the public examine the enormous amount of data the Hubble Space Telescope collects and embark on the kinds of tasks that are difficult for computers to do well, such as recognizing shapes. One such project has been using Hubble data to identify asteroids.
The project, named the Hubble Asteroid Hunter, was started in June 2019, with more than 11,400 contributors combing through data in an attempt to spot asteroids by the trail they leave behind. The public identified more than 1,000 trails, which were then used to train an AI, and together human and machine discovered a total of 1,701 trails.
Two-thirds of those asteroids were entirely new to astronomers and located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The next challenge for this project is to try to understand the orbits of these previously unknown asteroids, as well as trying to work out information about their size and rotation — a feat that’s difficult but not impossible with Hubble’s continued help.