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DARPA looking for citizen sky-watchers

Why not find some space junk in your spare time?

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A reader has alerted The Register to a story that passed us by last week: the launch of a DARPA program recruiting amateur astronomers to help identify and catalogue space junk.

Launched here, the SpaceView project would add “citizen scientist” efforts to more expensive space junk searches like the Space Surveillance Network.

The number of known objects in the cloud of detritus surrounding the Earth is more than half a million and growing – every new launch adds to the problem, and collisions between objects are getting more common as they multiply.

By comparison, the Space Surveillance Network is only tracking around 30,000 bits of junk. Hence SpaceView: an attempt to expand the available resources without crippling cost.

The project is currently at the sign-on stage: DARPA wants to know about the “equipment, sites and observing habits” of astronomers interested in joining the program.

The program is looking for sites with equipment that could be upgraded to collect observations under remote control, which would act as a single distributed world-wide sensor. Where a site is selected for inclusion in SpaceView, DARPA will provide the equipment to turn it into an automated observatory.

The first dozen sites will be selected late in 2013. ®

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