Saturday, February 16, 2013

Amateur Astronomy, NEOs and Social Media

What should be the motivation for tracking NEOs on social media? As with many other things there is the potential for abuse of power. The uncertainty in predicting an Earth impact may expose amateurs to civil penalties if they post their information. Even civil authorities can be exposed to risk when making public statements that can be misinterpreted as the l'Aquila earthquake trial has recently brought to light. I don't think that amateurs or professionals should be restricted to just posting observations. The data needs to be processed to extract the three dimensional information contained within it. But observational and computational errors contribute to the uncertainty about subsequent events. Amateurs work out of a need to know and a desire to put their skills to the test. When posting results it may be best to culture a spirit of public service and step forward to help in the way that amateur radio operators do when there is a public emergency.

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