Scientists have devised an ingenious plan for spotting “invisible” asteroids long before they pose a threat to earth. These same experts, who gathered recently in Berlin for a scientific congress, got all fired up over recent media reports that an asteroid – named 2002 NT7 – was on a collision path with earth and would hit in 2019. Asteroidologist Alan W Harris, an asteroid studies researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), stated: “This is just utter rubbish.”
He and his colleagues insisted that the asteroid was not and is not “on a collision course,” but rather it had a very, very small chance of being on a collision course. That chance, they calculated, was 3.9 in a million.
Those self-professed asteroid lovers say it is misleading and unethical for the media to play up doom-and-gloom stories which more often than not end with Hollywood visions of the extinction of all homo sapiens.
But, the experts are aware that outer space does pose a genuine threat. “The number of near-Earth asteroids larger than 1 kilometre in diameter is currently about 1,200. To date, almost half of them have been discovered,” Harris told the conferees in Berlin. “Much less is known about the smaller objects.”
Worrying to the public, however, and a point Harris referred to, is that asteroids measuring just a few hundred metres in diameter still have enough strength to wipe out a major city.
Slated for launch this summer, the Earthguard I project is a study the European Space Agency (ESA) has chosen for the preparation of new space missions for the study of Inner Earth Objects (IEOs).
The Earthguard I mission uses a compact search telescope mounted on a spacecraft in a heliocentric orbit in the inner Solar System.
From this vantage point, dpa reported, IEOs will be more easily spotted against a dark sky background, as well as appear brighter due to the smaller solar phase angle.(645)