NASA is working with the University of Arizona to detect and catalogue asteroids that may pose a threat to Earth. 

With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science, medical and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments.

Attack Asteroids. Furthering their partnership with NASA, the University of Arizona has been selected to lead a mission to “find, track and characterize” asteroids and comets that may pose a threat to Earth. UA Professor of Lunar and Planetary Science Amy Mainzer will lead the Near-Earth Object Surveyor mission, which uses an infrared space telescope to identify potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth’s orbit. Asteroids and comets in this range are classified as near-earth objects, or NEOs. NASA has previously identified an estimated 90% of all NEOs larger than 1,000 meters. This new mission aims to identify 90% of NEOs larger than 140 meters within a decade. There are currently more than 25,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets identified. These types of celestial bodies are widely considered to have had major impacts on Earth’s history, both geologically and biologically. The mission will use infrared sensors to detect asteroids and comets that have been warmed up by the sun. Searching for asteroids by sensing their heat emission allows astronomers to not only detect their location and speed, but also to compute their size.

“The fact that NASA tasked Dr. Mainzer and her group with the scientific leadership of this mission is a direct testament to her incredible leadership and expertise, as well as our university’s strong foundation in infrared astronomy,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “With NEO Surveyor, we are embarking on a project that transcends basic research and directly tackles one of humankind’s grand challenges: keeping our planet safe from devastating asteroid impacts.”

High-tech Housing Listings. A real-estate technology company recently announced the launch of its brokerage services in Tucson. The company Homie, which has served the greater Phoenix Metro area since 2018, does not charge the standard percentage-based commission to sell a home. Instead, they charge sellers a $3,000 flat fee, regardless of the home’s sale price, to market and sell a home. In addition to selling the home, the flat fee also gets users photography, signage, lockboxes, and their home listed on the multiple listing service. The company estimates their flat fee for all home sales puts an average of $10,000 back in the pocket of the seller. Homie currently provides real estate listing services in conjunction with its affiliated insurance and loan businesses in the greater Tucson area including Casas Adobes, Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley, Marana, Tucson Estates, Green Valley, Vail and more.

Promoting Health. The University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has announced a new undergraduate degree option in Wellness and Health Promotion Practice, which will be offered in-person and online starting autumn 2021. According to UA, the bachelor’s degree allows students to specialize in one of three tracks: health and wellness, health education, and aging and population health. In each track, students will learn to conduct health needs and resource assessments, and to plan health promotion services and interventions to promote behavior change and healthier lifestyles. According to the World Health Organization, high blood pressure, obesity and physical inactivity all rank among the top five leading global risk factors for death. And in the United States, from 2000 to 2018 obesity prevalence increased from 30.5% to 42.4%. During the same time, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.

“This is a great degree for students who want to help others develop healthy lifestyles and experience overall wellness,” said Velia Leybas Nuño, UA assistant professor and program director for the new degree. “Students who earn this degree can work in health care, health departments and elder care. They can become a community health worker, a health educator or a health coach. This field is predicted to grow significantly over the next 10 years, making the need for trained public health professionals essential.”

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