There have been many movies and other works which depict the imminent impact with asteroids, yet Earth is saved at the last moment when the characters come with an efficient solution. While most of these space rocks are shown to be quite big, it is well-known that even small asteroids can cause a large amount of damage. The Chelyabinsk meteor which measured less than 20 meters was able to compromise a major area when it exploded in the atmosphere in 2013.
A team of researchers plans to prevent such events as they are working a new detection method which could be used to track down small near-Earth-objects (also known as NEOs) while they are traveling towards the planet. The initiative is a part of NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory Division. These efforts will be presented along with other information obtained by the Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
At this point, we can identify the objects within a timeframe a few days before they impact occurs and the potential choices are quite limited. We have to work harder to be able to detect them when they are still far away, allowing us to deploy a larger range of mitigation solutions.
Here Is How NASA Would Protect Earth From Asteroids
The project sounds good in theory, but the implementation is quite difficult. NEOs are very hard to spot since they are already small and they come from far away. Some of them have a dark surface which complicates the process since they will not stand out in the black void.
Until now visible light was used to look for incoming objects, but the team proposed an interesting alternative: heat signatures. As asteroids and comets travel through space, they are heated by the sun, and they are visible if thermal wavelengths are used. The Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer can spot them easily.
Detecting the objects is the first step, but effective mitigation means are also needed to prevent potential collisions. Valuable information can be obtained from the asteroids themselves, and several space agencies are hard at work as they analyze asteroid samples in an attempt to learn more about them.