There are so many asteroids flying around near Earth that NASA has started a newsletter to warn the public about impending collisions, and now there are thousands more space rocks to worry about.
The American-led international effort to locate and track near Earth objects (NEO) that could potentially pose a threat to our planet hit a milestone this week.
There are now 15,000 confirmed NEOs and many more are waiting to be discovered, Ettore Perozzi, manager of the NEO Coordination Center at the European Space Agency (ESA) center told the Daily Galaxy.
“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.”
The big contributors to the near Earth object tracking program are the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona and the Pan-STARRS project in Hawaii; together they’ve found 90 percent of the nearby space rocks, Perozzi told the Daily Galaxy.
“A few decades back, 30 were found in a typical year, so international efforts are starting to pay off. We believe that 90% of objects larger than 1,000 meters have been discovered, but – even with the recent milestone – we’ve only found just 10% of the 100 m NEOs and less than 1% of the 40 meter ones.”
The European Space Agency established the Space Situational Awareness Program, the focal point for astronomers attempting to improve planetary warning systems. NASA is quick to point out that there is very little chance of an asteroid colliding with Earth, but notes that it does happen from time to time.
In 1992, a meteor blazed a fiery trail from Kentucky to New York where it crashed into the trunk of an orange Chevy Malibu and punched through the bottom of the car to the driveway below.
The best example of a dangerous asteroid in modern times is the Chelyabinsky meteor that exploded in the skies over Russia in 2013 and injured 1,200 people, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
Any asteroid over a mile long that struck the Earth would be disastrous for mankind; NASA notes these large space rocks do strike the planet every few million years or so. The largest known potentially planet killing asteroid is Toutatis.
John Holdren, White House director of science and technology, said planetary detection centers need to do a better job finding dangerous space rocks after two previously unknown asteroids whizzed by Earth, according to Space.com.
“We are not fully prepared, but we are on a trajectory to get much more so.”
Thanks to warnings from famed physicist Stephen Hawking, and likeminded scientists, society is starting to wake up to the dangers posed by passing asteroids.
NASA keeps track of all the dangerous space rocks flying around near Earth with its automated Near Earth Object Program and Sentry risk table.
“Sentry is a highly automated collision monitoring system that continually scans the most current asteroid catalog for possibilities of future impact with Earth over the next 100 years.”
The space rock most likely to crash into the Earth is 2016 UR36, which measures almost 60 feet in diameter and wasn’t discovered until earlier this year; it has a 1-in-10,638,000 chance of striking the Earth.
Or, as NASA puts it, a 99.99999060 percent chance of missing the planet completely.
For citizen scientists who think falling asteroids are the only danger facing us from space, NASA has the Space Weather Prediction Center run by NOAA.
After a recent solar storm forced America’s largest grid operator to issue voltage warnings to its customers, the nation is starting to realize that space weather can have very serious consequences for earthlings.
What do you think about the discovery of 15,000 near Earth objects flying past our planet?
[Featured Image by Johan Swanepoel/Thinkstock]