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Looking into The Stars – Joint Math Meeting Recap

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

By Dalton Chapman, Staff Reporter

During the week of Jan. 13, there was a joint math meeting held in Denver, Colo. for the International Astronomical Search Collaboration. At this meeting, Dr. James Martin, assistant professor of mathematics at Hardin-Simmons University, said the conference was very successful with nearly 3,000 math groups attending. .

At the meeting, Dr. Martin talked about an easier way to find asteroids moving in space. This will help catch moving asteroids that are in Earth’s orbit eventually hitting the Earth. Martin makes this possible by taking the highlights of the brightest pixels in each photo, making almost everything else in the photo disappear.

Dr. Martin uses a very simple equation to detect asteroids. He found the brightest spot on the image and subtracted it with the second brightest spot on the photo. Next, he took the dimmest spot on the photo, subtracted it from the second dimmest spot on the photo and divided the two results. Finally, it should put four dots in a line where the asteroids are moving, but Martin found out that it does not always work as well as he hoped it would.

"Some of the challenges that I had was the inconsistent image brightness as well as the noisy background,” Martin said.

The test he tried it on did put the four dots on the screen like Martin intended, however, they were so small most people would not be able to see them moving. “People will still be able to find things computers cannot, for a long time to come,” Martin said.

The IASC program involves students to help find new asteroids that come into Earth’s orbit and has the potential to hit Earth. There are students all around the world in the program. Scientists take photos from telescopes and send them to the students to study. One of these telescopes is located in Hawaii on Maui Island near the summit of Haleakala and has a 1.4 gigapixel camera which can take very detailed pictures.

If an HSU student wants to join the IASC program, they can go to Sid Richardson, Room 3B for more information. For anyone not attending HSU but wants to participate in the program, sign up at


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