Bah humbug, not another developer competition surely?
Well yes, but if we said NASA and Asteroids would you read on?
NASA has been working with Appirio's [topcoder] community of 630,000 data scientists, developers and designers to kick off the "Asteroid Tracker Challenge".
The challenge begins July 25 2014 and competitors are tasked to optimise the use of an array of radar dishes when tracking Near Earth Objects (NEO) from the time they become visible over the horizon till the point at which they cease to be visible.
NOTE: NASA define Near Earth Objects as are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth's neighbourhood.
"Composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, comets originally formed in the cold outer planetary system while most of the rocky asteroids formed in the warmer inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago."... anyway, back to the challenge
This tracking (the kind developers have to do for the challenge) is meant to allow scientists to gather information from each object such as composition, spin rate, among other properties.
NEO detection and characterisation is a critical need for NASA, it says.
Want to know why?
NASA has been directed to develop capabilities to observe, track and characterised NEOs and other deep space objects that could pose a threat to the Earth.
Developers, it is your duty, please go forth.