Arecibo asteroid hunters. Lead scientist Anne Virkki (center) reviews images with research scientist Flaviane Venditti (left) and postdoctoral scientist Sean Marshall (right). In the coming 4 years, under terms of the new grant, they will use the big dish at Arecibo Observatory for up to 800 hours a year to find and analyze near-Earth objects, including both asteroids and small comets. Image via UCF.
The University of Central Florida (UCF) – which manages the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on behalf of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) – announced on August 26, 2019, that it has received a big NASA grant to observe and characterize near-Earth objects (NEOs) that pose a potential hazard to Earth or that could be candidates for future space missions. Total for the four-year grant: $19 million.
That’s a big investment in Arecibo, which has been using radar to analyze NEOs for some years now, since the mid-90s observing some 60 to 120 objects per year. Yet this observatory has had funding concerns in recent years, which are now, for the immediate future, solved. In a statement, UCF commented that the team of asteroid hunters at Arecibo expects:
… to gain a lot of knowledge ...