Ask an astrophysicist anything you want about nearby asteroids!

Illustration for article titled Ask an astrophysicist anything you want about nearby asteroids!

Amy Mainzer is an astrophysicist at the Jet Propulsion Lab who builds instruments for space telescopes that allow us to study Earth's nearest neighbors, including asteroids, comets, and stars. She's here today to answer your questions about all the objects whizzing past Earth — and which ones we should be keeping our eyes on.

Mainzer built the fine guidance sensor for NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and she's currently leading NASA's NEOWISE mission to find and characterize asteroids, as well as a proposal to build a more advanced asteroid survey mission, the Near-Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) that would find a large fraction of potentially hazardous objects using advanced infrared detectors. In her spare time, she tells us, she enjoys roller disco and Star Trek, preferably together, and talking about science with anyone who will listen.

She'll be joining us from 12:30 - 1:30 (PST). So start asking her questions now about monitoring asteroids, the problems of space trash, and the tech that makes knowing about all this possible.


Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Annalee Newitz

I know we've mapped a huge percentage of near Earth objects now, but what are we doing to monitor new objects as they arrive? How are we keeping our local volume of space under surveillance? Or, if we aren't, how would we do it?