NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory originally published this story
On March 1
The news came from the Minor Planet Center at Cambridge, Massachusetts, the worldwide camp for such observations and the first determination of asteroid orbits. And although it should alert only the very small astronomical community that hunts and pursues asteroids to call for further observations, the news spread quickly.
Most media did not know what to expect from the announcement and mistakenly pointed out the prospect of Earth's failure.
Fortunately, it turned out that the Earth has never been in danger since 1997 XF11. After more thorough orbit analysis with available asteroid observations, Don Yeomans, head of the Solar System Dynamics Group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, along with his colleague Paul Chodas, concluded the opposite. Chodas, who is now director of the NASA Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at JPL, said:
The effect of 2028 was essentially impossible.
To this day, we still have questions about the chances of XF11 impacting 2028. There simply is not a chance that XF11 will hit our planet this year or in the next 200 years.
Chodas knows this, thanks to CNEOS 'precise trajectory calculations with observational data submitted by observatories throughout the Minor Planet Center, the world that recognizes and tracks the movement of asteroids and comets. Over the past two decades, CNEOS calculations have enabled NASA to become a world leader, keeping a close eye on all nearby asteroids and comets, especially those that can traverse Earth orbit. Chodas said:
We calculate high-precision orbits for all asteroids and comets and map their positions in the solar system, both in time to detect possible effects and backwards to see where they were in the sky. We provide the best orb map for all known small bodies in the solar system.
Mapping the Skywalk
Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are asteroids and comets in orbits that bring them into the inner solar system within 121 million miles (1955) Million kilometers) of the sun, and also within about 50 million kilometers of Earth orbit around the sun.
The media delight surrounding NEO 1997 XF11 demonstrated the need for clarity and precision in communicating with the public about the close connection of these objects with the Earth, as Chodas said:
… the importance of peer review public statements such as these are made.
NASA's original intent was to fulfill a 1998 Congressional request cataloging at least 90 percent of all NEOs within 10 years, more than a kilometer (about two-thirds of a mile). In order to achieve the goal of the Congress, NASA's headquarters requested that JPL set up a new office to collaborate with the data of the International Astronomical Union-approved Minor Planet Center and coordinate all observations of asteroids and comets institutions in the United States States as well as space surveillance facilities of the US Air Force.
In the summer of 1998, NASA established the "Near-Earth Object Observations" program, and JPL became home to NEO research data and analysis, then the "Near-Earth Object Program Office"
in 2016 The Office has been renamed the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) in conjunction with the establishment of the Planetary Defense Coordination Center at NASA Headquarters in Washington] For about 20 years, CNEOS has been NASA's hub for mapping the orbits of all known NEOs and predict their imminent close approach You must reliably estimate their impact on our planet and provide that information to astronomers worldwide as well as to the public.
Predictions of Narrow Approaches and Effects: Sentry and Scout
The First and Most An important step in assessing the impact risk of an asteroid or comet is to determine if the orbit of a given object is the orbit Traversing Earth's orbit – and then how near it will actually come to our planet. JPL has already identified high-precision orbits for some NEOs prior to the launch of NASA's NEO observational program and has since upgraded its orbital models to provide the most accurate rating for asteroid positions and orbit.
Observatories around the world are taking digital images of the sky to detect moving points of light (the asteroid or comet) over days, weeks, months and even decades. They then report the positions of these moving objects relative to the static background of the stars to the Minor Planet Center (for more details, see How a light spot becomes asteroid). The CNEOS scientists then use all of this observation data to more accurately calculate the orbit of a NEO and predict its movement over many years, looking for near approximations and potential impacts on the Earth, its Moon, and other planets.
A CNEOS The system called Sentry is looking ahead to see all possible future effects of the Earth on the effects over the next 100 years – for every known NEO. Sentry's impact monitoring is continuously updated with the latest CNEOS orbital models, and the results are stored online. In most cases, the probabilities of potential effects are extremely small, and in other cases, the objects themselves are so small – less than 20 meters or nearly 66 feet – that they would almost surely disintegrate, even if they did. Enter the Earth's atmosphere , Steve Chesley of JPL, a member of the CNEOS team who was the main developer of the Sentry system, said:
If Sentry finds possible effects on an object, we can add it to our online Impact Risk and Asteroid Observer table then prioritize this object for further observation. The more measurements of the object's position over time, the better we can predict its future course.
In most cases, the new measurements mean that the object can be removed from the risk list, since the uncertainties in the orbit are reduced, the possibility of impact is excluded.
More recently, CNEOS has also developed a system called Scout to provide more direct and automatic trajectory analysis for the most recently discovered objects, even before independent observatories confirm their discovery. Working 24/7, the scout system not only notifies observers of the highest priority objects, but immediately monitors the planetary coordination agency for possible imminent effects within the next few hours or days. One recent example is the scout-predicted impact of the small 2018 Asteroid LA over Botswana, Africa.
More Hunt to Do
With the addition of more capable NASA-funded asteroid surveys over the years NASA NEO Observations The program is responsible for over 90 percent of near-Earth asteroid and comet finds. There are now over 18,000 known NEOs and the average detection rate is 40 per week.
Although the original goal of the 1998 Congress has been surpassed and great advances have been made in the discovery and tracking of asteroids over the past two decades, the work is not over. In 2005, Congress set a new, much more ambitious target for the NEO Observation Program – to study 90% of NEOs by 2020 to the much smaller size of 450 feet (140 meters).  These smaller asteroids can not pose a threat of global catastrophe when they hit Earth, but they could still cause massive regional devastation and loss of life, especially if they occur near a metropolitan area. CNEOS continues to improve its orbital analysis tools, image and graphics rendering capabilities, and updates to its Web sites to provide PDOs, the astronomical community, and the public with the most up-to-date information on NEOs quickly and accurately.
For more information about CNEOS asteroids and near-Earth objects, see:
For more information About NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:
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Via NASA / JPL-Caltech