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UPDATE: Two participating schools, in China and Nicaragua, have discovered new asteroids.

IASCimage200xThe International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC=”Isaac”) is an online educational outreach program for high schools and colleges, in which students make original astronomical discoveries. Each day students receive telescopic images, only hours old and taken along the ecliptic. Using the software Astrometrica, they accurately measure the time and position of asteroids moving in the background. The measurements are recorded in a report sent to the Minor Planet Center (Harvard).

Each year 5000 students from 500 schools in more than 40 countries participate in IASC asteroid searches. There is no cost to the students or schools. Since starting in October 2006, 350 asteroids have been discovered, of which 15 have been numbered by the International Astronomical Union (Paris). Numbered asteroids are recorded in the world’s official minor planet catalog and can be named by their student discoverers.

Images are provided to IASC by the Astronomical Research Institute (Westfield, IL), Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii (Haleakala), and the National Astronomical Observatories of China (Beijing). Follow-up support is provided by Tarleton State University (Stephenville, TX), Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY), Sierra Stars Observatory Network (Markleeville, CA), Faulkes Telescope Project (Wales), and Shiaparelli Observatory (Italy).

Astronomers Without Borders and IASC are sponsoring a special asteroid search campaign as part of Global Astronomy Month (GAM2012) in April. Fifteen schools from around the world were selected to participate in this campaign, which takes place from 23 March to 27 April, 2012.

Weather permitting, each school receives 3-5 unique sets of images each week of the campaign. Students download each image set and search them for asteroids just hours after they have been taken along the celestial ecliptic by the Astronomical Research Institute (ARI).  Students use Astrometrica software, with IASC teachers who have participated in asteroid search campaigns available through the web site to answer questions by email and help with learning the software.

Schools were selected to participate based primarily on a one-paragraph description of the reasons the teacher and students would like to participate. To allow for geographic diversity in this special GAM2012 global project, no more than one school was selected from any country.

Note: Even if your school wasn’t selected to participate in this special GAM2012 project, it may still be able to participate in any of the 20 or more other asteroid search campaigns IASC organizes throughout the year.