NEO Observing Program

Target NEOs! Observing Program Coordinators:

General inquiries & submissions:

Dolores Hill
OSIRIS-REx Communication & Public Engagement

Phone: (520) 621-6106


Carl Hergenrother
OSIRIS-REx Science Team

Phone: (520) 626-1275




Target NEOs!* is an exciting opportunity for amateur astronomers to participate in a long-term citizen science project that will contribute to basic scientific understanding of near-Earth objects (NEOs). Observers collect data about asteroids on a selected list and submit images and corresponding reports. These observations directly support NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission and aid future mission designers and scientists. Citizen scientists’ astrometry and photometry data will enable scientists to test theoretical models about these objects to refine orbits and taxonomy. The observations, which are personally gratifying for the observer, represent important, real contributions to asteroid exploration. Some of the NEOs in this program are observable by 8-inch telescopes or larger equipped with CCD cameras. 

A larger telescope will allow more objects to be observed. Remote observing is welcomed, too.

Many advanced amateur astronomers are highly skilled, possess large aperture telescopes equipped with research quality instrumentation, and are eager to engage in research-oriented activities. Your observations can complement professional observations, provide greater geographic distribution, and create larger data sets through more frequent observing.

* Target NEOs! and Target Asteroids! are companion programs that use the same list found here:
Select the Target Asteroids! button and then select “List”.

Background Information

Target NEOs! complements the AL Asteroid Observing Program and other asteroid programs:

Target NEOs! is natural follow-on project for observers who have completed the League’s Regular and Gold Asteroid Certificates and, yet, can be attempted by observers who have not completed these programs. We encourage observers to refer the Astronomical League’s Asteroid Observing Guide and the links found on the OSIRIS-REx mission’s Target Asteroids! webpages found here:

Select the Target Asteroids! button. Then select “Instructions” and “FAQ” for observation planning, helps, and reporting formats.

This program builds on the excellent work done by experienced observers for many years and other NASA NEO programs. We encourage observers continue to submit observations to these programs as well.

This artist’s illustration shows an asteroid belt full of rocky bodies of different sizes and compositions that orbit the Sun. Some of these are near-Earth objects (NEOs) that travel within 1.3 AU of Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Target NEOs! and Target Asteroids!

Target NEOs! is the Astronomical League’s observing program through which observers may earn a certificate and/or pin. Target Asteroids! is the Communication and Public Engagement project of the NASA OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission that provides the list of asteroids to be observed. Many of the resources are shared between the programs:

Select the Target Asteroids! button.

These pages include helpful tips, links to information, software and standard star catalog suggestions.

The Targets!

“Target NEOs!” is built around a dynamic compilation of objects selected by Carl Hergenrother, OSIRIS-REx lead astronomer. He selects NEOs that are more than 200 meters in size and easily reachable by sample return spacecraft. It will change as new observations are made, new asteroids are discovered, and spacecraft mission requirements change. Currently, there are more than 140 objects on the list. Some are as bright as 7th apparent magnitude (Ceres) and range from 15 - 21.5 absolute magnitude (H) and approximately 0.2–6 kilometers in size. There will be ample opportunities for observers to attain the highest level of achievement over the course of several years. The current list of objects may be found here:  Select the Target Asteroids! button and then select “List”.


How to get Started:

Fill out the Target Asteroids! Observer Registration Form right away, mark Target NEOs!, list your Astronomical League member club, and email address.  Register here: This will allow you to receive updates and helpful information.


How to Report Observations:

When you are ready to submit observations, upload three images spanning a half hour interval to:

and email the corresponding astrometry or photometry report to and the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center at Do not wait until you have observed 10 or 25 objects to submit your data. Submit your observations as you make them.

The suggested image file name is in the format: 

Observer_Object_YYYYMMDD_HHMMSS_Flag(TA or TNEOs).FITS

For example: Hergenrother_101955Bennu_20120318_041510_TNEOs.FITS

The TNEOs flag lets us know you are an Astronomical League observer.

Corresponding astrometry and photometry reports should be in “MPC format” described here:

Requirements and Rules

This certification is available to members of the Astronomical League, either through their local astronomical society or as members at large.  If you are not a member and would like to become one, check with your local astronomical society, search for a local society on the Astronomical League Website (click here), or join as a member at large (click here).

Target NEOs! is dynamic and exciting! We invite you to take up the challenge! There are ample opportunities for observers to start with the intermediate level and to attain the highest level of achievement over the course of several years. This is one of the few AL observing programs in which you submit your observations as you make them rather than waiting until you have observed the minimum number of objects.

Award Level Asteroids Required Recognition
Intermediate 10 certificate
Advanced 25 certificate & pin

Intermediate Certificate          Advanced Certificate          Advanced Pin


Submitting for Certification

Observations are in digital form (see “How to report observations” above). Contact the coordinator if you plan to use photographic images.

To receive your certificate and/or award pin, send a summary of your observations that includes the list of NEOs observed and the dates to Target_ We will verify receipt of the observations and forward a certificate and/or pin to you or your society's "Awards Coordinator", whomever you choose. Be sure to specify which you prefer and provide the necessary address.


Target NEOs! Observing Program Coordinators:

General inquiries & submissions: 

Dolores Hill
OSIRIS-REx Communication & Public Engagement
Lunar & Planetary Laboratory
Space Sciences – Gerard P. Kuiper Building
University of Arizona
1629 E. University Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85721
Phone: (520) 621-6106


Carl Hergenrother
OSIRIS-REx Science Team
Lunar & Planetary Laboratory
Michael J. Drake Building
University of Arizona
1415 N. 6th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705
Phone: (520) 626-1275





Citizen Science:  If you enjoyed this Observing Program, and look forward to doing more observations to submit to the national or international database, then we invite you to participate in the Astronomical League's Citizen Science Program.  This is an extension of this Observing Program and only requires you to do what you have been doing; observing and submitting those observations.  For more information about this opportunity, please go to the website:  Citizen Science Program.