The Number Of Near-Earth Objects That Pose A Threat To Earth Is Now Over 15,000, NASA Reports

Posted: Oct 30 2016, 9:56am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 30 2016, 11:46am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA Found 15,000 Near-Earth Objects That Pose a Threat to Earth
Credit: ESA/A. Baker
 

The number of discovered near-Earth asteroids have reached a milestone of 15,000, with an average of 30 new ones catalogued each week.

Astronomers’ effort to find and catalogue asteroids and comets that pose a threat to our Earth has reached a new milestone. 15,000 of those potentially hazardous near-earth objects have been discovered so far while many more are yet to find.

Near-Earth objects or NEOs are steroids or comets of varying sizes that float in solar system and whose orbit bring them close to the Earth. These objects become dangerous or their risk of colliding with our planet increases if they come within about 28 million miles of Earth’s orbital distance.

NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) observation program is responsible for the bulk of those discoveries (95 percent) with Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona and the Pan-STARRS project in Hawaii are jointly assigned for detecting and confirming near-Earth objects.

The 15,000th near-Earth object is an asteroid that has been given the name 2016 TB57. It was discovered on October 13 by observers at Mount Lemmon Survey, a part of Catalina Sky Survey.

The newfound asteroid is a small one, ranging between 50 to 115 feet in size. It is expected to make closest approach to the Earth on October 31 at just beyond five times the distance of the Moon but will stroll across Earth safely without damaging it.

The milestone of 15,000 near-Earth objects also marks a 50 percent increase in the number near-Earth asteroids since 2013 when the 10,000th asteroid hurtling towards Earth was detected and catalogued. The rising rate of discovery is possibly due to upgraded telescopes and improved detection methods.

“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,” said Ettore Perozzi from NEO Coordination Centre in Italy.

“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 1000 m have been discovered, but even with the recent milestone, we’ve only found just 10% of the 10 m NEOs and less than 1% of 40 m ones.”

The first near-Earth object was discovered in 1989. Only few hundred have been found in the next 100 years until the launch of NASA’s NEO Observation program in 1998. The program has been racking up asteroids that come in different sizes and shapes ever since. About 27 percent of the near-Earth asteroids that are minimum 460 feet and larger have been found to date while the aim is to detect more than 90 percent of such objects by the end of 2020, which means that the pace of discovery had to increase.

It appears that the target is achievable as more powerful telescopes are being deployed in coming years that are capable of covering even larger patches of sky. One of them is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The telescope is expected to begin operation soon.

Another purpose of detecting NEOs is to help craft plans for countering those asteroids that are actually threatening for our planet.

“While no known NEO currently poses a risk of impact with Earth over the next 100 years," said Lindley Johnson, NASA Planetary Defense Officer. “We've found mostly the larger asteroids, and we have a lot more of the smaller but still potentially hazardous ones to find.”

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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