"Asteroids" may be a classic video game, but the Asteroid Data Hunter app that's just become available for desktop computers is no idle pastime: It's a software package that sifts through image data from Earth-based telescopes, looking for previously detected asteroids and flagging space rocks that haven't been seen before.
The app was developed by NASA in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc., a commercial venture that's gearing up to mine near-Earth asteroids. It's the result of a TopCoder competition that offered $55,000 in prizes for better asteroid-hunting algorithms. An experimental analysis of images taken of the solar system's main belt asteroids showed a 15 percent increase in the positive identification of new asteroids when the Asteroid Data Hunter app was used, NASA said in a news release.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
The project was conducted under the aegis of NASA's Asteroid Grand Challenge. The software release was announced on Sunday at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas — the same venue where the coding competition was announced last year.
The Asteroid Data Hunter app is available for Windows and Mac computers, and a Linux version is in the works.
— Alan Boyle