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Celebrate the promise of planetary defense on this asteroid day



Trying to protect Earth from threatening asteroids is on the brink of recovery, as "a flood of new observations" comes from a new telescope designed to scan the sky, "says Ed Lu, co-founder of the B612 Foundation. A non-profit organization dedicated to planetary defense

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in Chile is expected to have "first light" in 2020, meaning that the telescope's mirrors will be exposed to the sky for the first time full scale operation will begin for its ten-year survey of southern skies in 2022, if everything goes according to plan, according to Lu, the telescope alone will have tens of thousands of new asteroids in its first year, many more will follow.

Just in time for the asteroid day , an annual celebration on June 30, Lu and others reported on the latest developments in planetary defense, the science of Asteroi to discuss the and possible threat to the Earth. Although we do not know of any asteroids that directly harm our planet, there is always the possibility, a participant said in an asteroid day teleconference on Thursday (June 27).

Related: Humanity will hit a spaceship in a few years to become an asteroid to save us all

Between LSST and other ready-to-use telescopes, Lu continues, scientists reckon with the fact that they will quickly catalog "70% or more" of asteroids ̵

1; or space rocks – are more than 460 feet (140 meters) tall. This statistic is relevant to Congress, which in 2005 called on NASA to catalog at least 90% of asteroids of this size by 2020, the agency said. Lu acknowledged that scientists would not meet the deadline, but said that they could provide this catalog with enough time and money.

Lu said that scientists should now think about how to present new discoveries to the public. When LSST discovers these objects for the first time, their observations are so sparse that it will be difficult to constrain the orbits of the asteroids. In the time when scientists were not yet familiar with the ways of these objects, others could be classified as a threat to the Earth, as scientists do not know exactly where they are in space. But even smaller asteroids pose a threat, only on a local level, said Mark Boslough – the first US scientist to visit Chelyabinsk after a six-story object exploded over the Russian city in 2013. A range of 40 meters can pose a threat to the cities, he said.

Boslough cited the Tunguska incident, a 1908 incident in which an asteroid broke in the earth's atmosphere and plummeted the Siberian forest to 2,150 square kilometers. These and other "air strikes" can cause a lot of damage, so smaller-sized asteroids should also be included in disaster planning, he said.

"I've always thought we should do more about it than we do [now]especially because they're so much more common – there are about 10 million such things," he said.

Boslough – a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory – said these smaller objects might not be cataloged, since there are so many of them. Instead, he recommends the development of polls that shed light on the imminence of the earth. Then disaster planners could evacuate cities that may be threatened by the object, as we do today for incoming hurricanes.

There are other ways to search for these objects. This summer, comet Encke's Beta Taurid meteorite stream will move closer to Earth than usual. This swarm of objects is in a 7-to-2 resonance with the planet Jupiter, meaning that they orbit the sun seven times when Jupiter orbits twice. The orbit of these objects intersects with Earth orbit, although it does not pass every year near our planet.

In the coming weeks, telescopes will monitor the swarm of Tunguska-sized objects as the swarm crosses our earth at the end of June and continues until August, he said. He added that it is no coincidence to summon Tunguska, as this object was "most likely a Beta Taurid," based on the time it hit Earth on June 30, 1908.

Asteroid Missions Run

Another aspect of planetary defense is studying near-Earth asteroids at close range. NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is orbiting the asteroid Bennu, and the Japanese Hayabusa2 orbits the asteroid Ryugu. In the next few years, both spaceships will deliver samples to Earth.

And there will be more. Patrick Michel, co-investigator of the forthcoming asteroid mission Hera, talked about the progress of this European asteroid mission. Hera should start in 2024 for the double-asteroid Didymos. What distinguishes Hera from previous missions is that it works in concert with a NASA spacecraft called the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test). DART will try to change the moon orbit of Didymos, and Hera will investigate all the craters left by DART.

Hera is still in the planning stage and will pass another key approval milestone in November, Michel said. He added that this is an important milestone for the European Space Agency, as it may be "the only asteroid mission that Europe will carry out within the next decade".

But asteroids are not only dangerous – they could also be extremely valuable to Marc Serres, CEO of the Luxembourg Space Agency. Because they contain water and minerals – resources that can be used for space missions – now is the time to make a catalog before exploring the solar system. As people move to the moon and other destinations, it will be important to mine as much as possible along the way.

"Using the resources we find in space will completely revolutionize our actions in space because we do not have to bring everything with us," he said.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom and Facebook .


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