05 Aug ESA in urgent call for ‘eyes on the sky’ after ‘surprise’ a…
Last month an asteroid big enough to kill millions zoomed past the planet just a few days after it was spotted.
If it had been on a collision course with Earth, we could have done little to protect ourselves and would have had to watch helplessly as the space rock ploughed into our homeworld.
The European Space Agency has now issued an urgent call for more ‘eyes on the sky’ to make sure we don’t get caught by ‘surprise’ again.
On July 25, astronomers watched as a 100-metre wide object called 2019 OK came within 65 000 km of our planet’s surface – whitch is roughly one fifth of the distance to the Moon.
The rock had actually been ‘previously been observed but wasn’t recognised as a near-Earth asteroid,’ ESA admitted.
Now it’s hoping to learn from this mistake and make sure every asteroid heading our way is located and identified well ahead of time.
‘This ‘un-recognition’ of an asteroid, despite it being photographed will be used to test the software going into ESA’s upcoming asteroid-hunting telescope, the Flyeye,’ said Rüdiger Jehn, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence.
Nasa will be sure keep a close eye on Asteroid 2006 QQ23, which is set to pass by Earth on August 10.
The massive rock, which has been estimated at 570m in diameter and bigger than New York’s Empire State Building, has been classified as a ‘near-Earth object’ (NEO).
It will make its closest approach to Earth at a distance of 4.6 million miles some time just after 3am.
The asteroid was discovered over a decade ago in 2006, which gives it part of its designated title.
The American space agency says there’s no danger of the wayward rock hitting us, which is a very good thing. Even though the asteroid isn’t a big as some out there, it’s large enough to create widespread devastation if it impacted on Earth.
A land impact cold obliterate an entire city while a plunge into the ocean could cause tsunamis that impact low-lying land.
In either scenario the asteroid would change the climate for many years.
Nasa estimates it has already found over 90 percent of near-Earth objects measuring one kilometer or larger – which would have catastrophic global effects in the event of a collision.
But, smaller space rocks are much harder to detect.
The space agency has been working to pinpoint NEOs in the 140-meter range, with a goal of identifying at least 90 percent of these objects.
According to Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) manager Paul Chodas there are very few asteroids identified by NASA that have a chance of hitting Earth, one of which, Bennu, is the subject of frequent monitoring by the agency.
Bennu is as wide as five football fields and weighs around 79 billion kilograms, which is 1,664 times heavier than the Titanic.
It has a 1 in 2,700-chance of striking Earth between 2175 and 2199 – which is really very small, so there’s no need to worry unduly for your great, great grandchildren’s safety.
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