Oracle Volunteers and the Daily Minor Planet

“Supercharged Perseid Meteor Shower Peaks This Month” – as the very first edition of Daily Minor Planet brought us the news on August 4th, 2016.

Daily Minor Planet

First edition of Daily Minor Planet

Daily Minor Planet is a digital newspaper on asteroids and planetary systems. It features an asteroid that might fly by Earth for the day, or one of particular significance to the day. Also it features a section of news from different sources on the topics of Asteroid and Planets. And most interestingly, it has a dynamic orbit diagram embedded, showing real-time positions of the planets and the daily asteroid in the sky. You can drag the diagram and see them in different angles.

You can read the live daily edition on the Minor Planet Center website. Better yet, subscribe to it with your email, and get your daily dose of asteroid news in your email.

Daily Minor Planet is the result of collaboration between Oracle Volunteers and Minor Planet center. Since the Asteroid Hackathon in 2014, we have followed up with a Phase I project of Asteroid Explorer in 2015, which focused asteroid data processing and visualization. And this is the Phase II project, which focuses on the public awareness and engagement.

The Oracle Volunteers on this phase consisted of Chan Kim, Raymond Xie (me!), Kristine Robison, DJ Ursal and Jeremy Ashley. We have been working with Michael Rudenko and J.L. Galache from Minor Planet Center for past several months, and created a newspaper sourcing – editing – publishing – archiving system, with user subscription and daily email delivery functionality. And during the first week of August, the Oracle volunteer team were on site to prepare and launch the Daily Minor Planet.

Check out video of the launch event, which was hosted in Phillips Auditorium, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and live streamed on YouTube channel. The volunteer’s speech starts around 29:00 minute mark:

It was a quite intense week, as we were trying to get it ready for launch. In the end, as a reward, we got a chance to have a tour of the Great Refractor at Harvard College Observatory, which was located just in next building.

The Great Refractor

The Great Refractor, at Harvard College Observatory

By the way, the Perseid meteor shower this year will peak on August 12, and it is in an outburst mode with potentially over 200 meteors per hour. So get yourself ready and catch some shooting stars!


  1. Raymond, that’s super cool! I subscribed, even though my interest in astronomy is at the amateur level. Sounds like a fun project!

  2. @Joyce: I’m not sure, but I’ve heard about it. Tawny is our VR maven. I assume she knows. Personally, I’ve stayed away from VR for fear of headaches and puking 🙂

  3. I haven’t tried the Cardboard aspect yet. I’m only halfway through the article itself. Quality journalistic writing + photos is close enough to VR for me, without the added intensity of actual technology-enhanced VR. I have played with Google Cardboard’s default apps, which were amusing and fun. I think experiencing the war-torn Middle East would be another experience entirely. I’ll get there eventually. I think the NYT is doing a good job of keeping with the times in terms of tech niceties. For instance, because the article is really long, they have a feature where you can bookmark your place (is it a cookie? Not sure) so even if you close the site, when you reopen, it’ll zoom to where you left off. Of course, you must login to use that feature, which then sets you up to receive NYT marketing emails. But I don’t mind them; they’re done in an unobtrusive way. I guess if I want to know what Thao thinks, I should text her since she’s not on social media much and I know she gets like a million emails every day. I was just curious about your guys’ take on VR, or at least, whatever you can share on a public-facing blog. ?

  4. Final thought: I remember 2 years ago, the NYT had some amazingly effective data visualizations. They have some smart techie people working there somewhere!

    Okay, done hijacking Raymond’s astronomy post. I am still subscribed to the daily emails! 🙂 So good job, Raymond, on user engagement!

  5. Thanks for the tip Joyce Ohgi, just downloaded NYT VR for my Google cardboard. Actually, that would be an awesome next phase to see the asteroids in VR! Speaking of headaches and puking, I was playing around with uploading Samsung Gear 360 images in Facebook 360, very fast, responsive and clear 360, but felt I needed Dramamine to view it ;-p

    Very cool post. Thanks for the update, Raymond Xie!

  6. @Cindy: The article is very long and detailed. I was taking notes, almost like I was back in school. The NYT does very thorough reporting. LMK if you try out the app. I have to pull out my Cardboard from our closet somewhere! I don’t have much Samsung experience, still an Apple user, although Eric’s iPhone is slowly dying, and I’m contemplating jumping us over to Samsung… I don’t know if the UI is as intuitive, although I feel like Samsung has been improving in that area?

    I don’t know if Raymond reads this blog, he is probably too busy developing new stuff? LOL I liked the pics on FB of him with a robot and a kid’s toy musical instrument?! He’s a rock star, that’s for sure. 🙂

  7. @Joyce: We’re hunkered down for OOW at the moment. Tawny has quite a bit of VR thinking here, mostly from earlier in the year.

  8. @Joyce: I play Go off and on myself, but Tawny is the Queen. We have our own home on, find it quickly using The article you read was my strategy piece, glad you liked it; there are also pieces on research, design and development methodologies. We’ll be adding more content post-OOW.

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