Just a year ago, a city of 1 million people in Russia had an asteroid cause injury and destruction. Some 1500 people sought medical care, and 7200 buildings were damaged. If the asteroid had entered the atmosphere at a higher angle, many people would probably have died.
Many asteroids (Near Earth Objects or NEOs) are in orbits around the Sun that bring them very close to Earth. Many have hit the Earth in the past, and continue to do so. Even small NEOs can pose a threat to your life and our civilization.
Congress has not provided the funding to build enough telescopes to track all the NEOs discovered; we will help address this issue with your help. Using funds raised through this campaign, we will purchase a telescope and camera to follow NEOs after discovery. Every clear, dark night, we will use this telescope to track NEOs and report our data to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, MA, which computes orbits and determines if an NEO will hit Earth, along with its colleagues at NASA/JPL and Italy. We have an experienced team in place and a committee of project advisors with the talent and expertise to ensure success.
Our goal is to make life safer for you -- and all of us! Let's not go the way of the dinosaurs, which were probably wiped out by an impact from an asteroid only a few miles across.
Note: Some photos below have a link to a larger, more detailed version indicated by a blue caption. Click on the caption to see the larger version. All photos and tables below are from the Web without a copyright listing, except as credited. The space art paintings are by Don Davis under commission to NASA who holds the copyright, and has placed these images in the public domain.
1. Project Goals
- Raise funds to purchase a telescope and camera capable of tracking Near Earth Objects (NEOs), asteroids and comets that can strike Earth
- Eliminate the NEOs from the risk list we need not be concerned about, and focus on the ones that pose a hazard
- Through our university partner, involve students in the design, construction, and integration of the telescope and camera
2. Project Personnel
- Mark Trueblood, Winer Observatory director and experienced project manager and NEO observer
- Two professors from the Texas A&M University
- Oversight Committee of two NEO scientists, a leading technical manager, a former astronaut who advocates for increased NEO funding, and an internationally recognized comet expert
3. Project Plan and Schedule
- Obtain funding through online campaign (Feb - Mar 2014)
- Negotiate agreement with the Texas A&M University (Jun 2014)
- Place order for telescope (Aug 2014)
- Place order for camera (Sep 2014)
- Receive, install, integrate, and test system (2-4 years from order, depending on telescope size)
4. Cool Rewards!
- Everyone donating $100 or more will get to take a picture of whatever they want in the sky using our telescope!
- Everyone will receive an email expressing our thanks.
- Everyone will be publicly thanked on Facebook and Twitter, unless you ask for your donation to be anonymous.
- Those pledging $25 or more will have their donations acknowledged on our Web site.
- Those pledging $1000 or more will have their donations acknowledged by a plaque on our observatory wall, and can stop by for a private tour of the observatory.
- Naming rights, free tee shirts, and other rewards for larger donations. Look at the bottom of this page for a complete list of perks, especially those for donations greater than $100.
1. Why Should We Track Near Earth Objects (NEOs)?
According to some estimates, you have about the same chance of dying from an asteroid hitting the Earth as you have in dying in an airplane crash! This could impact YOU and your family's future.
Each year, Congress gives $15 Billion to the FAA to keep airline travel safe, and more to the Dept. of Homeland Security to prevent airline terrorism. But Congress gave NASA only $30 Million last year and about $4 Million per year for the last decade to fulfill Congress’s mandate to NASA to discover and track Near Earth Objects or NEOs, asteroids and comets whose orbits around the Sun bring them close to Earth. This is barely enough to fund the professional surveys, and insufficient to build a new telescope to track the fainter NEOs that Congress has mandated NASA to discover and follow.
The Winer Observatory in southeastern Arizona has teamed with faculty members in two departments of Texas A&M University to build a telescope to help keep track of these NEOs, especially the ones posing the greatest threat to Earth. We have no formal agreement with Texas A&M yet; first, we need to raise enough money to get the project under way before agreeing on who does what in a partnership.
The problem with getting Congress to fund NEO discovery and tracking at a level appropriate to the risk is that asteroid impacts on Earth are rare. This makes people think the risk of dying from an NEO impact is lower than it is. This is an example of a low probability but high consequence event -- something that human nature prevents us from taking seriously enough.
Fig 1: Image of Moon showing impact craters
A glance at the Moon shows hundreds of impact craters. Earth would look the same way, except 70% of Earth's surface is covered by water, and Earth's surface is constantly changing, due to earthquakes and erosion. It was not until Earth survey satellites were launched that we found many craters that were right there under our noses.
Fig 2: Barringer Crater caused by impact from a 60 foot NEO about 50,000 years ago, recent by geologic standards
Most of the craters seen on the Moon (and Earth) were formed by impacts by asteroids and comets millions or billions of years ago, though several are more recent. One of the most recent was in 1908, when a large meteor exploded over the Stony Tunguska River in Russia. Fortunately, the affected area was largely unoccupied by people, but 80 million trees were flattened over an area of 830 square miles. The explosion is rated at about 10-15 megatons, 1000 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in World War II.
Fig 3: Tunguska event in 1908, felling trees over 100s of square miles
About a year ago in a single day, February 15, 2013, Earth had two warning shots across the bow. One was a previously discovered NEO, 2012 DA14, which is about 100 feet across. It flew between Earth and our communications satellites that are located about 1/10 the distance from Earth to the Moon. A second NEO we didn't know existed, about 60-feet across (small by NEO standards) exploded 20 miles above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, sending 1500 people to seek medical help and damaging over 7200 buildings.
Fig 4: Chelyabinsk, Russia event on February 15, 2013
A video of the Chelyabinsk event, compiled from car dashboard cameras in the area at the time, as well as other sources, shows the NEO entering the atmosphere, exploding, and creating havoc. The damage to the buildings in the video was caused by the shock wave of the explosion of the asteroid about 20 miles up in the atmosphere.
The Chelyabinsk asteroid exploded with a force of about 400 kilotons of TNT, more than the 300 kilotons (1/3 of 1 megaton) of the W87 warhead shown below that was on our missiles during the Cold War. One of these warheads could devastate Manhattan. These are tiny numbers compared to the millions of megatons a very large NEO could generate to wipe out the dinosaurs – or us! If the Chelyabinsk asteroid had come in at a steeper angle, it would have exploded closer to Earth, and besides injuring people, it could have killed much of that city's population of 1 million people.
Fig 5: W87 MIRV warheads, each with an explosive power on the low end of NEO sizes
Figure 6 below shows the equivalent yield in megatons of TNT versus the size of an NEO in meters (1 meter is about a yard). Please note that we have extreme difficulty discovering NEOs less than 100 meters in size using current telescopes, yet something smaller than this could wipe out an entire city.
Fig 6: Equivalent yield in megatons of various NEO sizes, and the damage they can do. Based on Table II, D. Morrison et al. (1994), Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids, pp. 72-73.
How does this relate to your chances of dying from an NEO impact with Earth? Ignore the Interval in Years column of the table in Figure 6. These events do not occur precisely every 4000 years, for example. Instead, they can happen at any time, and the interval and equivalent explosive power of each size of asteroid are used to calculate the probability you face each day in dying from an event of that magnitude.
Fig 7: There were TWO "500 year" floods during the decade of the 1990s of the Mississippi River basin including the Missouri River shown here
A key point is that we have the SAME chance, each and every day, of dying from an asteroid. Remember there were TWO “500-year” floods of the Mississippi River in the 1990’s – rare events can happen any time, and in bunches.
To help understand the serious nature of the threat posed by NEOs to humanity, here is a table ranking threats to humanity (from 1994; more recent figures indicate the risk of death from a large asteroid is reduced, but the risk from smaller "city-killers" is larger than calculated a few years ago):
Today, most NEO experts believe that the risk of dying from an asteroid impact is about 1/10 that of an airplane crash. Recently, the estimate of impacts the size of Chelyabinsk has gone from every 100 years to every 40 years. Increased knowledge of NEOs brings with it changes in the risk estimates. This is the nature of science. Even if your risk of death is 1/10 that of an airliner crash, Congress does not spend 1/10 of the roughly $20 billion for the FAA and DHS to keep airports and airplanes safe, or $2 billion, on NASA's NEO Observation program. If it did, we would not be appealing to the general public for funds.
Large corporations use risk management experts to alert senior management to things they should do to protect their organizations from threats. Members of this risk management community have declared NEOs a moderate, not low, risk worthy of increased funding.
If we are able to track both the new discoveries and those that have made one or more orbits around the Sun, our team may be able to give NASA sufficient early warning that they can launch a space mission to move the asteroid away from its collision path from Earth.
There are several ways NASA could do this, for example: (a) a space tug using gravity to pull the asteroid just enough to divert it from Earth, (b) nuclear weapons to create jets of matter to propel the asteroid off its collision course, or (c) nuclear weapons to disintegrate the asteroid into small enough pieces that they pose no further harm. This requires long-term tracking of the asteroid, to ensure we know its orbit well enough that we are sure it poses a threat, and to give us sufficient time to act. It takes years to design a new space mission, and a year or more to reach the NEO after the mission is launched from Earth. The larger the telescope we can purchase, the more time we will have to save ourselves.
We are part of a small community dedicated to tracking NEOs after the surveys discover them. As the surveys discover the larger ones (one estimate is that 96% of all NEOs a kilometer across and larger have been discovered, and none threaten Earth for the next century), it becomes harder to keep track of the smaller ones. We are hoping to add to the existing resources a telescope optimized for NEO tracking of sufficient size to improve our ability to weed out the NEOs that pose no threat and to focus on the ones that do.
2. Why Should We Build a New Telescope Now?
Professional surveys are very efficient at discovering new Near Earth Objects (NEOs). The Catalina Sky Survey (one of two of their telescopes is shown below) located north of Tucson in the Catalina Mountains, discovers up to 2/3 of all new NEOs.
Fig 8: Catalina Sky Survey 60-inch telescope, which discovers up to 70% of all new NEOs
What the discovery surveys often do not usually have are the telescopes and staff to continue observing their new discoveries to reduce the errors in their orbits. What is lacking is telescopes to track newly discovered NEOs months after initial discovery to reduce the errors in their orbits. Far too often, we don't know which NEOs pose a serious threat and deserve our attention, and which we can safely ignore. That is the problem your generous donation will help solve.
Discovery usually occurs when the NEO is at its brightest, when the Sun, Earth, and NEO are in nearly a straight line. Within days to weeks, the NEO dims rapidly. The errors in the initial discovery points on the sky are large enough to allow thousands or even a million different orbits to be fit to the data points. By observing the NEOs months later, the NEO is further along in its orbit about the Sun, and our observations then reduce the errors.
All of the hundreds of NEOs we have observed usually start out with large errors, sometimes with a possible orbit that makes it hit the Earth. Our observations reduce these errors, and limit the number of possible orbits you can draw through all the data points, often removing an NEO from the list of those that could strike the Earth.
Fig 9: US national observatory 84-inch telescope, due to be closed August 2014
Our situation is that the telescope we use at the US national observatory pictured above will be closed August 1, 2014. The US astronomy community wants to build some very large and expensive telescopes to probe the fundamental nature of the universe (but will not be useful for our purpose), and we fully support these projects. But Congress has not given the National Science Foundation enough money to both build these new telescopes and to keep the ones we use open.
If our project is fully funded, we will purchase a telescope that will help us to pay attention to the NEOs that are the most dangerous.
3. Why Isn't the Government Doing This?
The two major funding agencies for astronomy and planetary science are the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. The NSF operates a variety of national and international facilities and awards research grants to individual scientists, but funds astronomy programs with a focus outside the solar system. Congress amended the "National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958," Public Law #85-568, 72 Stat., 426 to include discovering and tracking of NEOs as a fundamental NASA mission.
Congress appropriates a small amount each year for this purpose, and NASA wisely uses it to upgrade existing telescopes and to support the building of new ones. However, the current NASA budget is insufficient to build the number of new telescopes dedicated to tracking NEOs that we need. As part of its recent budget cutting, Congress reduced the budgets of both the NSF and NASA, making funding of this telescope using Federal funds impossible. Although the funding of NASA's NEO Observation program has increased recently, they still do not have the funds necessary to build telescopes capable of finding all the targets Congress has mandated that they find.
So the federal government does not have the money to support our program. We now turn to the general public, you, who will be most affected if an asteroid hits the Earth to fund the telescope we need to continue this important work.
4. Who Are We?
We are a group consisting of Mark Trueblood (Director, Winer Observatory; http://www.winer.org) who will be the Project Manager, Prof. Darren DePoy (Physics and Astronomy Dept., Texas A&M University) who will lead the development of the camera, and Prof. David Hyland (Aerospace Engineering Dept., Texas A&M University) who will provide scientific guidance on how the telescope should be optimized to observe NEOs.
Winer Observatory was incorporated in 1983 and is recognized by the IRS under Section 501(c)(3) as a non-profit public charity (contributions are tax deductible). Our goal is to procure a telescope and camera to be placed at Winer's site in southeastern Arizona, where the weather provides over 200 clear nights per year. Most of the group members plan to use their time on the telescope to work with their students to improve the orbits of Near Earth Objects (NEOs), asteroids or comets whose orbits about the Sun bring them very close to (or in collision with) the Earth. Other students will be involved in the design and construction of the camera and possibly the telescope itself, and in using the telescope for a variety of projects during the part of the month that the Moon makes the sky too bright to see faint NEOs.
Fig 10: Project Manager Mark Trueblood, Director of Winer Observatory, at the controls of the US national observatory 84-inch telescope
Mark Trueblood holds a BS in physics from Brown University and an MS in astronomy from the University of Maryland. Early in his career, he worked in the aerospace industry near Washington, DC where among other assignments, he was the Program Manager for the contract to build the original Hubble Space Telescope control center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. After moving to Tucson, AZ in 1990 after Hubble was launched, he worked for the US national observatory for 22 years, first as a programmer in charge of developing a large database for the National Solar Observatory, then for 18 years overseeing instrument development for the two Gemini Observatory 8-meter (320-inch) telescopes and for the national observatory’s two 4-meter (160-inch) telescopes. These instrument projects ranged in value from $4 million to $30 million, so he knows how to manage both large and small projects.
Since 2008, he has led a team to track and measure NEOs, first at Winer Observatory, then by competing with other astronomers to use national observatory telescopes on Kitt Peak. His team has consistently received high scores from outside review committees, sometimes receiving more nights than requested. The result is 90 publications covering 264 individual NEOs the team has tracked. Trueblood received two NASA grants to support his team’s NEO observations. He was honored when the international association of professional astronomers voted to name asteroid 15522 “Trueblood”.
Fig 11: Image of asteroid 15522 Trueblood
So not only can Trueblood lead the project to build the telescope, he can lead the team to use the telescope to track NEOs.
Fig 12: If we surpass our goal, we will buy a telescope large enough that two professors at Texas A&M University have expressed interest in joining our project
There are two professors at Texas A&M who are interested in joining our project if we are able to raise enough money. Prof. Darren DePoy of the Physics and Astronomy Department builds instruments, including serving as the Dark Energy Camera project scientist. Before moving to TAMU, DePoy was the Vice Chair of the Astronomy Department at The Ohio State University, where he led the development of two large spectrographs for the world’s largest telescope, located in Arizona. DePoy is interested in building a wide-field camera for our project.
The other TAMU researcher is Prof. David Hyland of the Aerospace Engineering Department, where he is a noted researcher in the field of NEOs.
Fig 13: Our Project Advisory Committee is composed of experts in NEOs and asteroids, technical project management, and an astronaut who is a leading advocate for NEO research
We have an Advisory Committee consisting of the following experts in asteroids and comets, technical management, and sound business principles (left to right in Fig 13 above):
Dr. Clark R. Chapman, NEO impact risk expert
Dr. Alan R. Harris, asteroid orbit and photometry expert
Mr. Wayne Rosing, former VP of Engineering, Google, Inc. and founder of the Las Cumbres Observatory
Mr. Russell L. Schweickart, Apollo 9 astronaut, Chairman of the B612 Foundation which advocates for a strong coordinated NEO program
Dr. David H. Levy, successful comet hunter, former Parade Magazine science editor, and proponent of astronomy eduction and public outreach
All members of the Advisory Committee have endorsed our project.
Furthermore, we have an encouraging letter from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Rose Center at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Dr. Tyson appeared on the PBS television science series NOVA, the History Channel's series The Universe, and several other shows, including one giving the Top 10 threats to human existence (Dr. Tyson presented the No. 4 threat, NEOs). Dr. Tyson cannot endorse our project or any other, but he does support NEO research in general.
Fig 14: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, encourages NEO research
5. You Can See the Positive Effect of Your Contribution
First, we have a website (http://www.projectasteroid.org) that describes NEOs in more detail, where we will post our progress from time to time. Currently, that web site is geared to larger telescope projects. We will modify that website when our fundraising is complete, and we have determined what size telescope we will be able to afford using your generous donations.
When the telescope and camera are installed and working, we will begin observing NEOs. Typically, we reduce our observations that night, and submit them to the Minor Planet Center (MPC) in Cambridge, MA, where they are published in a Minor Planet Electronic Circular (MPEC). We invite you to follow along (http://www.winer.org/Science/MPEC.php) and monitor our progress as our observations are published in MPECs.
Fig 15: Image of Messier 33 (M33). You can take a picture like this using our telescope!
But most important, you, our donors, can have access to our telescope to take your own pictures of space -- the planets, the Moon, asteroids, clusters of stars, beautiful clouds of dust and gas, and other galaxies outside our own. We will give you access to an imaging system capable of producing detailed electronic images in color, if you donate $100 or more. Check out the rewards -- there is a level of telescope use with every level of donations. Take a "selfie" of you at your computer displaying the image you took using the telescope you helped fund!
6. What Your Money Buys
Fig 16: Project budget
Please note that we plan to contribute $70,000 of our own funds to this project. We see this as a partnership, with both you and us participating.
7. How This Telescope Can Save Planet Earth
Fig 17: If we meet our goal, we would purchase a telescope such as the one pictured here
We will purchase a telescope, such as the one pictured above, if we meet our goal. Such a telescope will enable us to follow up on new discoveries a few days after discovery and to help determine which objects reported by the surveys are indeed NEOs.
Fig 18: If funding permits, we will buy a larger telescope, enabling us to track fainter (smaller, but still lethal) NEOs
If we exceed our goal by a substantial amount, we will purchase a larger telescope that allows us to track smaller objects that could destroy entire states. Such a telescope can track brighter NEOs further along their orbits, reducing the errors in their calculated orbits. It would also permit us to track fainter NEOs for longer than otherwise. Reducing orbit errors means we can ignore the NEOs that pose no threat to Earth, and focus on the ones that might hit the Earth.
If we do not reach our goal, we will evaluate what funds we do receive and consult with our partners and advisors to determine how best to use the funds.
No matter what size telescope we are able to buy, the observing technique is the same. We take 3 to 5 pictures of the same area of the sky, shift them so the stars line up, and the asteroid motion is readily apparent, as shown here.
We are tied to planet Earth as it orbits the Sun in what is effectively a giant pinball machine, yet, like driving your car without collision insurance, we do not have in place an adequate network of telescopes large enough to track all the objects being discovered that could threaten our home planet. Each month, the surveys discover dozens or even 100 new NEOs, but about 20% (mostly the fainter ones) are not re-observed after discovery well enough to get an accurate orbit. For practical purposes, they cannot be recovered in the future unless just by luck a survey re-discovers them. That means we do not know their orbits well enough to know whether or not they will hit the Earth.
Our telescope will be imaging NEOs every clear night when the Moon does not interfere by lighting up the sky. We will be keeping track of the newly discovered objects and tracking them to reduce errors in our understanding of their orbits. We will diligently report our measurements to the Minor Planet Center so that everyone in the NEO community can make use of our observations. With your help, we will provide that "collision insurance" for the Earth.
Since our telescope will be used for educating students as well as tracking NEOs, on nights too bright (when the moon lights up the sky) to work on NEOs, we will schedule student observations of variable stars, stars that might have planets going around them, and other objects of interest. This is the educational part of our project.
People are interested in many things: training for the Olympics, finding a cure for cancer, the activities of Hollywood stars, their own family and friends, and so on. This is the way it should be – we should each be pursuing our own happiness. But NONE of this matters if an asteroid hits Earth and ends your life. All the centuries of human endeavor, from walking across a field in the Rift Valley in Africa to walking on the Moon, all of human history could be obliterated by a large asteroid impact.
Fig 19: Please help us prove humans are smarter than the dinosaurs, who had no space program
Please help us prove we are smarter than the dinosaurs, which were wiped out by an NEO impact 65 million years ago. With your help, we can do this!
To earn more about Near Earth Objects, check out the PBS Nova program at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/asteroid-doomsday.html .
Finally, here are some things you can do to help, even if you cannot afford to support our campaign:
Support NASA's OSIRIS-REx project to send a probe to an NEO.
- Support President Obama's Asteroid Initiative for NASA.
- Support NASA's NEO observation program.
- Tell your friends about our campaign -- please spread the word! You can use Indiegogo's share tools to get the word out.
Fig 20: This painting by space artist Don Davis captures the situation we are trying to prevent with this project. This is not fiction -- this is for real!
Contributions and Really Cool Perks!
Details of our contribution levels and associated perks are given here.
$20 -- Public Support Level
We'll thank you by email, and acknowledge your contribution on Facebook and Twitter (if you select the acknowledge options). The IRS has determined that all contributions to Winer Observatory are tax deductible.
$35 -- One Tee Shirt
If you live in the US, you will receive one tee shirt (front and back are shown below). This can be an add-on to another support level, or it can be your entire contribution. Please select this contribution level once for each tee shirt you want. We will contact you after the campaign is over to determine size, shipping address, etc.
Tee Shirt Front
Tee Shirt Back
The artwork for these tee shirts is based on original paintings by space artist Don Davis under commission to NASA, which has placed them in the public domain.
$50 -- One Tee Shirt for those living outside the US
To pay the extra shipping costs for needing delivery outside the US, we will send a tee shirt to an address outside the US.
$100 -- Subscriber Level
Besides the email thanks and social media acknowledgements, we'll name you on our web site as a Subscriber. You can take a photo of anything in the sky up to 20 minutes long with our telescope (see notes and comments below about using our telescope and camera).
$1,000 -- Patron Level
You get all the above, plus one free tee shirt, and a guided tour of our observatory. Please visit our web site (www.winer.org) to get our phone number to call and arrange the tour. You can take a photo(s) of anything in the sky with a combined time of 45 minutes.
$5,000 -- Benefactor Level
You get all the above, including one free tee shirt and guided tour of the observatory, plus a private evening tour of the heavens for up to 4 people total, any time after May 17, 2014 (we suggest May, June, and October for the best weather). You also get up to one hour of combined exposures of any object in the sky using our telescope.
$10,000 -- Underwriter Level
You get all the above, with two free tee shirts, a tour of the observatory and a guided tour of the heavens for up to 4 people, and a total combined exposure time through our telescope of two hours.
$50,000 -- Name the Camera Level
You get all the above, with up to four tee shirts, the tours of the observatory and the heavens, total combined exposure up to two hours, plus the contributor with the largest contribution in this category has the right to name the camera. The name will be engraved on a small plaque affixed to the camera. If there are two or more contributors in the Name the Telescope Level, the right to name the camera will go to the donor with the second largest contribution at the Name the Telescope Level.
Please note: For any level over $10,000, you may need to use the $10,000 and other levels, possibly multiple times, to make your donations.
$100,000 -- Name the Telescope Level
You get all the above, plus the contributor with the largest contribution in this category will have the right to name the new telescope we will purchase as part of this project. If there are two or more contributors in the Name the Telescope Level, the right to name the camera will go to the donor with the second largest contribution at the Name the Telescope Level.
Notes and Comments
- Please make your contributions through this Indiegogo web site, up to their limit of $10,000 (for larger amounts, you may need to make multiple contributions at the levels that sum to your desired donation). We need your support through Indiegogo. If we fail to meet our campaign goal, the service fees we pay are considerably higher, the additional costs possibly amounting to $10,000 or more. After our campaign ends, feel free to use the Donate button on our own website.
- If you want a digital image of a celestial object (at a qualifying backer level), just give us the name of the object by email after the campaign ends. Or specify the celestial coordinates. We will figure out the exposure time, what time of year to observe your object, etc. We will take the image and email it to you.
- When taking pictures using our telescope, please remember that as a ground-based observatory, we are subject to the weather. Our location provides a large number of clear nights each year, but we have a summer monsoon season July through September when we close down to prevent lightning damage. If the weather louses up your photo, we will reschedule it for a later time, with the date depending on demand and your donation level. Professional astronomers do not get this service -- if they are clouded out, they are out of luck and have to submit another proposal for a time when their target is visible. And the second time around, they might not get the time they request. For our project, you will get your time.
- We reserve the right to schedule your image on our public outreach 14-inch telescope. First, it may be better suited to what you want to photograph (if you want a photo of Mars, you probably do not want a tiny dot in the middle of a large picture of zillions of stars). Second, it can take 2 to 4 years to purchase and install a new telescope, as most of the telescopes the size we wish to purchase are custom designed and built after the order is received. We want to get you the reward you are due as quickly as possible, but we also want to make it as high quality as possible.
- Some objects are very faint. If you choose a contribution level with only a few minutes of time, if we believe you could not get a good image in the time available, we will let you know, so that you can either change your contribution or change your target. The Moon can be imaged in about a second, planets can be imaged in a few minutes, while galaxies tend to take a half hour or more.
- Not all celestial objects are visible every night of the year. As the Earth goes around the Sun, different parts of the sky become visible in different seasons. For example, the constellation Orion is visible in the early evening during northern hemisphere winter, but at different times during the night or not at all in other seasons. We will attempt to give each donor personalized service in scheduling their telescope time.
- Here is our favorite TV ad involving NEOs.