26 March 2019 – The Višnjan Observatory, located on Tičan near the Istrian village of Visnjan in Croatia, has overtaken NASA to become the most successful in exploring asteroids that could pose a threat to the Earth.
Earlier this month, statistics by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre revealed that the Višnjan Observatory was second only to NASA in the world for successful exploration of asteroids that could pose a threat to the Earth, but that has since changed.
“According to unofficial information, the Višnjan Observatory is no longer behind NASA for discovering and tracking asteroids but has overtaken them to climb to the golden first place,” the Croatian Astronomical Society announced on social media.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Croatian team has done more than 54% of work in the tracking near-Earth objects (NEO) which are near the Earth and pose a potential threat to it.
Headed by Korado Korlević, a prolific astronomer and discoverer of minor planets. The Višnjan observatory was founded in 1992, as a public observatory. It worked in the field of astrometry and search of a new asteroids.
Korlević says that astronomers in the world sometimes call Višnjan the Wallmart of world astronomy, in the sense of having the best price-to-product ratio as the all the work which is being produced is fine without any institutional funding.
“Americans are not surprised by our success because there are plenty of scientists in their queues who spent part of their childhood in Višnjan,” Korlević said.
The secret to the Croatian team’s success comes down to two factors. First, this is a project in which a large number of observatories around the world are jointly involved. For example, after a NEO is detected by an observatory in Hawaii, other observatories need to take over its monitoring. Otherwise, the body is lost.
Višnjan is are around 12 hours from Hawaii and therefore is almost in an ideal position to keep track of the objects they discover. The International Astronomical Union declares that the NEO has been discovered by joint work.
The second, and most important part of the secret of Višnjan’s success is the development of new methods that enabled the team to be the best with a small amount of money.
The Minor Planet Center (MPC) directly credits the Višnjan Observatory with the discovery of more than 108 minor planets, while over 1,294 discoveries are credited to Korlević.
The observatory is home of several summer programmes for youth in astronomy, archeology, marine biology and other disciplines.