An asteroid nearly missed our little blue planet earlier this week, but thankfully NASA was able to detect it with their new alert system that warns when material like an asteroid is coming anywhere near Earth.
Scientists are hoping to use this technology to make asteroid collision something earth dwellers are no longer concerned about so that we don’t go the way of the dinosaurs.
This year, scientists have spotted over 1,500 NEO or near earth objects, which is a true testament to the way the system works. Although this number seems high, it actually means the system is totally working.
The technology, which is called Scout and is being tested at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. It is always scanning the area around the earth to see if there are any NEOs and whether or not the earth is at risk for a collision.
Astronomer Paul Chodas of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said about the technology:
“When a telescope first finds a moving object, all you know is it’s just a dot, moving on the sky. You have no information about how far away it is. “The more telescopes you get pointed at an object, the more data you get, and the more you’re sure you are how big it is and which way it’s headed. But sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to make those observations.”
According to Chodas, NEOs can actually come for the earth pretty quickly after Scout’s detection. In some cases, it may be as few as seven hours before the team is aware that there is an NEO.
However, the aim is to speed up Scout’s process so that it can detect NEOs and give the people of earth enough time to be warned if there is a potential collision–or if scientists can figure out a way to stop it.
Ettore Perozzi, manager of the NEO Coordination Center for the European Space Agency near Rome, Italy stated of the technology:
“The rate of discovery has been high in the past few years, and teams worldwide have been discovering on average 30 new ones per week. A few decades back, 30 were found in a typical year, so international efforts are starting to pay off. We believe that 90 percent of objects larger than 1000 m have been discovered, but – even with the recent milestone – we’ve only found just 10 percent of the 100 meter NEOs and less than 1 percent of the 40 meter ones.”