Peter Birtwhistle started measuring positions of near-Earth asteroids and comets in the late 1970’s from film and glass plates taken by British amateurs, utilising mechanical X-Y measuring machines at UCL’s Mill Hill Observatory and also at Woolston Observatory. In 2002, after CCD digital cameras had replaced photography and the need for physical measurement of negatives, Birtwhistle set up Great Shefford Observatory, dedicated to the study of near-Earth asteroids. Even though sited in southern England, it is consistently one of the most prolific amateur observatories in the world, assisting with follow-up observations of newly reported NEOs, using software he developed to aid in the recovery of fast moving objects with large positional uncertainties. Birtwhistle received the Gene Shoemaker NEO Grant from the Planetary Society in 2005 and the British Astronomical Association (BAA) Ridley Grant the same year. He also received the BAA’s Steavenson Award in 2007 and is currently Assistant Director (Astrometry) of the BAA Asteroids & Remote Planets section.
Image Credit: Max Alexander