Earlier this month, The Planetary Society awarded more than $18,000 to three astronomers that focus on discovering and documenting NEOs (near earth objects). NEOs are that special class of asteroids, meteoroids, and comets that orbit near Earth and may have the potential to ruin a perfectly good day for every living thing on this planet. Since 1997, the group has awarded more than $200,000 to amateur and underfunded NEO hunters in memory of Gene Shoemaker, co-discoverer of the Shoemaker-Levy comet that slammed into Jupiter in 1994.
Most Earthlings do not give a nanosecond’s thought about a NEO impacting the Earth (unless they just watched Armageddon or Deep Impact). It’s heartening to know that amateur astronomy geeks around the world are at the frontline of defense and are being encouraged by The Planetary Society.
This year’s winners were astronomers from across the U.S.:
Each is an amateur, but after reading through their respective websites and looking at their equipment, you’ll see that these guys mean business. I especially like Mr. Holmes’ full top DIY observatory (see image below); complete with a computer center and a separate room for the scopes. I’m still putting along with my Orion 4.5 Dobsonian. I’m going to have to step up my game so that I can join the hunt.