The Southwest Institute's Near-Earth asteroid research and educational program was established via a generous grant from the Foundation for the International Non-Governmental Development of Space (FINDS) which we received in 2000.

The study of near-Earth asteroids has gained a lot of attention during recent years, especially in consideration of the potential threats they represent to Earth as well as the resources they might contain. As a result of comprehensive survey programs which have come on-line beginning in the late 1990s a large number of near-Earth asteroids are now known, and more are being discovered all the time. With its telescope and CCD system the Southwest Institute is capable of making crucial follow-up observations of these objects which will help in determining the characteristics of their orbits and making preliminary assessments of their composition.

The Institute's system became operational in August 2000 and in October of that year was assigned observatory code 921 from the Minor Planet Center. A photograph of the telescope system, along with some images it has taken in the course of our program, can be found on the images page.

Once our system is permanently based at the Earthrise site, we expect to incorporate our research program on near-Earth objects (among other endeavors) into the Earthrise Project. As a part of this effort, we will be able to invite the participation of students in obtaining observations with our system and in performing analysis of these observations. Participating students can thus learn about this exciting field of research by performing some of the actual science; they may even be making a contribution toward saving our Earth from impact!

In the near future this page will become an interactive feature which will allow you to extract information about various comets and near-Earth asteroids, including objects that are currently visible. In the meantime, feel free to view some recent images, and check out the following links:

The Minor Planet Center (the world's clearinghouse for orbital information about all asteroids, including near-Earth ones)

The Minor Planet Center's Near-Earth Object page, which includes links to all the various survey programs that are currently operating

NASA's Near-Earth Object program office at JPL

Asteroid discussion group on Yahoo!

The Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker mission, which orbited the asteroid Eros for one year before touching down on its surface on February 12, 2001

The Japanese Hayabusa mission to the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa

See also our links to comet information on our Comet Hale-Bopp page