Summary:

The Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge begins today. It seeks improved algorithms that will help the space agency spot more asteroids.

Asteroid
photo: NASA

Do you have a penchant for coding and algorithms? How about saving the planet from horrific destruction?

If so, check out the Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge, a contest launched today by NASA and Planetary Resources that challenges citizens to develop better ways to spot asteroids.

The Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge will run tentatively through August 22. Participants will need to improve algorithms that spot asteroids in images taken by Earth-bound telescopes. The algorithms must improve detection sensitivity, minimize false positives, ignore data errors and be compatible with any computer. Teams that succeed will have a chance at $35,000.

“Protecting the planet from the threat of asteroid impact means first knowing where they are,” Prizes and Challenges Program executive Jenn Gustetic said in a release. “By opening up the search for asteroids, we are harnessing the potential of innovators and makers and citizen scientists everywhere to help solve this global challenge.”

NASA announced last year that it plans to track all asteroids that pass near the Earth. But at the time, it was only able to spot 95 percent that measure larger than 3,280 feet across and 1 percent of asteroids smaller than 328 feet. The agency has since been collecting ideas for how to track, deflect and capture asteroids, including turning to citizens.

Spotting more asteroids will help scientists better predict if one is on track to hit the Earth, ideally with enough time to divert or destroy it (exactly how they would accomplish this is still in the works). But it will also pinpoint asteroids that might someday be of interest to space mining companies like Planetary Resources.

Comments have been disabled for this post