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UN meeting tackles asteroid threats

Posted on Tuesday, 29 October, 2013 | Comment icon 4 comments

An international effort will attempt to detect incoming threats from space. Image Credit: NASA/Don Davis

Distinguished scientists and astronauts met to discuss asteroid mitigation strategies on Friday.

Hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the event centered around developing and implementing an international contingency plan to defend the planet against an apocalyptic impact from an asteroid.

With an estimated 1 million asteroids in our vicinity with the potential to pose a danger to the Earth there is a pressing need for more effective detection methods. According to former astronaut Edward Lu there are 100 times more asteroids than our current detection methods are able to pick up. "Our challenge is to find these asteroids first, before they find us," he said.

Lu's organization, the B612 Foundation, is currently building an infrared space telescope called Sentinel that's goal will be to to detect threatening asteroids when it launches in 2018. If a deadly asteroid can be discovered far enough in advance of impact then it should be possible to launch a spacecraft to change the object's trajectory before it's too late.

Recent events such as the explosion of an asteroid over Chelyabinsk in Russia have helped to increase awareness of the issue. "It did make a difference in policymakers realizing that this is not just a science-fiction concept, or something that will happen in 100 or 500 years in the future," said former astronaut Thomas Jones. "The fact that it happened right now, I think, enforced the reality."

Source: | Comments (4)

Tags: Asteroid

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by little_dreamer on 30 October, 2013, 1:22
I hope that someone is watching the sky for objects falling to Earth. Wouldn't want an extinction event to occur because of "budget cutbacks".
Comment icon #2 Posted by DieChecker on 30 October, 2013, 1:25
I was going to say this was Bull, but then I saw Neil deGrasse Tyson hosting it and suddenly I had hope for the future. I beleive there is lots of things we can do about asteroids, it is only a matter of what are we willing to spend.
Comment icon #3 Posted by jesspy on 30 October, 2013, 10:50
I once read somewhere that the amount of people actively looking for asteroids that pose a threat to earth is enough to staff a single Mcdonalds restaurant i.e less then 50.
Comment icon #4 Posted by paperdyer on 30 October, 2013, 19:45
With the technology available, does the number of people looking need to be higher? I would think that we'd only start tracking objects that enter the Milky Way and objects that come close to the asteroid belt. Depending on the size of the object anything we do may be a moot point. I wonder if it would be possible to place an object in orbit around the Sun at a 90° angle to the orbits of the planets without eventually colliding with one or having it's orbit changed due to being too close to one. If it was possible we should be able to get a broader-based telemetry on spacial ... [More]

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