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By Teaching Computers to Track Asteroids, ­w Scientists May Save the Earth

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An asteroid approaching Earth.

A project receiving the support of researchers at the University of Washington aims to map and track asteroids in the solar system, in order to predict and avert collisions with the Earth.

Credit: Shutterstock

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) are participating in a project to map and track asteroids in the solar system so collisions with Earth can be predicted and averted.

The researchers are developing algorithms for mining massive datasets generated by an advanced telescope currently under construction, which UW's Andrew Connolly describes as "like playing connect-the-dots where all of the dots are sitting on top of one another, and you have to separate them out."

As director of UW's Data Intensive Research in Astrophysics and Cosmology Center, Connolly will oversee the work of scientists and faculty--as well as amateur researchers--to apply data from the Chile-based Large Synoptic Survey Telescope to asteroid tracking.

Connolly and UW professor Zeljko Ivezic see the Seattle region as a good fit for the project's data processing burden, with Connolly noting, "It mixes computing, new cutting-edge science, statistics, the engagement of the community, the understanding of the formation of our universe."

From Seattle Times
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