Armageddon Twitters? NASA launches asteroid tracker

NASA unveils Web site, Twitters about space objects hurtling toward Earth

Worried you might not have enough time to live it up right before an apocalyptic asteroid crashes into Earth and ruins your whole day?

Well, fear no more. While Bruce Willis isn't suited up to try to save the Earth like he did in Armageddon, NASA is on the job.

The space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory yesterday launched a Web site dubbed Asteroid Watch that will act as a centralized source for information on objects hurtling close to Earth. Well, close is relative -- the site will take note of any asteroids or comets coming within 4.6 million miles of our planet.

The project also includes a Twitter account so people at NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, also known as Spaceguard, can quickly update followers on near-earth object discoveries and flybys.

"Most people have a fascination with near-earth objects," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office, in a statement. "And I have to agree with them. I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth. The goal of our Web site is to provide the public with the most up-to-date and accurate information on these intriguing objects."

The new Web site is set up to offer people information on NASA's efforts to study comets and asteroids, and offers a link to the Near-Earth Objects Web site for those looking for more detailed and technical information.

Reaching out to people using social media, like blogs and Twitter, is nothing new to the techies working behind the scenes at NASA.

This spring, astronaut Mike Massimino, a mission specialist onboard space shuttle Atlantis became the first person to Twitter from space.

And engineers working on robotic Mars rovers and others at NASA's Ames Research Center and Mars Science Laboratory have been posting updates on Twitter for quite some time. For instance, the NASA workers who Twittered about the Mars Phoenix Lander before it froze to death on the red planet last fall pulled in more than 43,000 followers.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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