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Oz asteroid-hunt at risk as NASA cuts funding

ANU offers only interim fix: report

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A near-Earth object search described as the Southern Hemisphere’s only asteroid survey is under threat because of NASA funding cuts, according to The Canberra Times.

The report (warning: contains infuriating Fairfax auto-play video segment) states that the Siding Spring Survey, which under Rob McNaught has identified more than 400 objects (more than 70 of which are credited to McNaught), is operating on interim funding from the Australian National University following NASA’s decision.

Professor Harvey Butcher, head of the ANU’s School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, says there is currently “no clear channel of finance” for the handful of salaries and relatively inexpensive (a couple of million rather than a couple of billion) investment for a more powerful telescope.

The report states that 80 of the objects turned up by the survey are classified as potential hazards because of their size (diameter greater than 100 meters) and orbit (within 7.5 million kilometers of Earth).

Based at Siding Spring’s Uppsala Schmidt telescope, the Siding Spring Survey has been working in conjunction with Arizona University’s Catalina Sky Survey.

McNaught told The Canberra Times that he has contacted Chris Evans (Minister for Science and Research) and Greg Combet (Minister for Industry and Innovation) to try and obtain Australian government funds to continue the sky survey. ®

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