How Do We Study Asteroids?

The traditional way to study asteroids, and the way asteroids are discovered, is by using optical telescopes. Click on the image at right to find out more.

In the last few decades radar telescopes have proven to be a very powerful method for imaging selected asteroids from Earth. 

Dr. Steven Ostro of Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been a pioneer in this field. Click on the radar telescope image to find out more.

There is a problem with radar images. They are formed in a strange geometry (the "delay-Doppler" geometry) that can make them confusing to our eyes and brains. Plus, what we'd really like to have, even more than images, is a complete three-dimensional physical model of the asteroid. 

Turing radar images (and sometimes optical data) into physical models ("cooking up" models in a computer) is the specific area of my research. The WHAT section of the Main Menu presents results to date. Click on the image at right to find out more.

spacecraft.htm Sending a spacecraft to an asteroid is a very powerful method of study. There are different classes of spacecraft missions such as flybys, rendevouz, and landings. Due to the expense, the number of asteroid that can be studied in this manner is currently limited. But, as technology produces smaller and cheaper spacecraft the number of spacecraft missions to asteroids will almost certainly grow dramatically.

Someday people will visit asteroids. They are a logical step in humankind's journey into space. Click on the image at left to find out more.