Amateur astronomers can receive awards of $3,000 for discovering and tracking asteroids that may impact the Earth, according to new legislation approved by the House of Representatives. While this is great, with our recent near-misses, it would be more reassuring if the government would allocate enough money to hire professional astronomers to do the job.

Asteroids capable of inflicting global damage hit the Earth about every million years, causing mass extinctions. “Given the vast number of asteroids and comets that inhabits Earth’s neighborhood, greater efforts for tracking and monitoring these objects are critical,” says Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who sponsored the bill. Astronomers estimate there are between 900 and 1,100 near-Earth asteroids with a diameter of half a mile or larger. Around 700 of them have already have been discovered.

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