Cazasteroides: find out what this app consists of
Who has not seen Armageddon yet? That movie, directed by Michael Bay, in which a gigantic asteroid threatened life on Earth…The humans were about to be destroyed, but Bruce Willis was there to save us. Of course, the plot of this film was, at least, peculiar, and, after all, it was nothing but a blockbuster, created exclusively to entertain, not to be scientifically accurate.
However, there was a piece of reality in it: the universe is filled with asteroids and, even though the probability of collision is extremely low, it can happen. Because of this situation, an app has been developed, in order to prevent any risk of this kind. It is called “Cazasteroides” (“asteroid-catcher”) and it has been created by both the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM in Spanish) and the Canary Astrophysics Institute (IAC in Spanish).
This app is available for all devices
Cazasteroides is free and it can be used both in iOS and in Android devices, and there is also a web version. The scientific director of this project is Miquel Serra-Ricart, an astronomer from the IAC. He explains how the app works: “To be an asteroid-catcher is easy: you just need to install the app in your phone and to have visual acuity. The program shows a sequence of images from the sky, and you have to mark the objects that are suspicious of being an asteroid –you can recognize them because the move, in contrast to the stars-. These detections are filtered first by the rest of the users –through voting- and finally analyzed by a group of experts”.
The experience shows that the risk of collision is very low, but it is necessary to analyze the data, in order to have a more complex view of the situation. There are more than 750000 asteroids known, and every month 2000 more are discovered. From all of them, the 2% (15000 of all) belongs to a concrete group, called NEAs (Near-Earth Objets).
There are different categories inside the NEA group. The most relevant for this app is the PHA subgroup. It includes those asteroids which are potentially dangerous for our planet. This means that there is a probability of collision, even though it is extremely low.
People must help to discover new asteroids
How can all of these be controlled? The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomic Union (IAU in Spanish) is the organism responsible. This organization manages the asteroid database, and everybody, both professionals and amateurs, are welcome to collaborate.
Cazasteroides is only another example of how the approach to the study of the universe is being managed. With this app, it is expected that the population takes an active role, because every effort counts.
In order to achieve this implication, the app must look stimulating: we need an incentive to use it! Because of that, this app has been programed as a game.
As it entertains, the user gets more and more interested in this project and wants to participate, because he or she does not see this as work. You receive virtual money and points when you play, and you can use it later in the GLORIA Network (GLObal Robotic-telescopes Intelligent Array).
As it has been explained before, the app shows a series of images taken by a telescope, and the user has to analyze them, in order to discover any asteroid. This project has already been shown in public, but the idea is to achieve a global network of telescopes. If this happens, the number of images will be infinitely superior and the study of the sky will approach to the optimal. If the managers of Cazasteroides achieve a massive participation of people from the whole world, the contributions will be uncountable.
Cazasteroides meets the public
Cazasteroides is already available and has also been presented in public. The first contact with its potential users took place last November, inside the Week of Science and Innovation in the Canary Islands.
The first prototype was presented there by its creator, Miquel Serra-Ricart. The public was composed of students of different ages.
This might seem weird, but the manager explained why they chose this audience: “The visual acuity that youngsters have will allow us to detect little asteroids, which are not detected by mathematic algorithms. The key is to achieve a massive implication. We all are responsible of the caring of our planet. Cazasteroides is our shield, which protects us from every object that might get too close to Eath”. These are the reasons why everybody in this planet should participate in this project.
Cazasteroides was in the Child Park of Tenerife too
Cazasteroides was shown again in public. Between the 22nd of December 2016 and the 8th of January 2017, a new prototype of this app was available to use it in the Child Park of Tenerife, an event that takes place every year in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. So, once more, youngsters were the target, even though older people were, of course, invited to join. We must add that, thanks to Volkswagen Canarias and Media Markt Tenerife, every person interested in this app was able to become an asteroid-catcher by using a smartphone or tablet Android.
Will this project be successful? Future is unknown, but there is no doubt that this app is useful and necessary. Their creators know it, and this is why they are trying to involve everybody, especially the youngest. The only thing left is that you yourself join this project by downloading this app. If you need more information, we offer you a few links to the websites and profiles of different social networks. It is time to discover asteroids and to be a hero for a moment, like a homespun Bruce Willis.
In order to write this text, the press release published by cazasteroides.org has been taken as reference.
The images have been shared by the Cazasteroides Project.