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Home / Science / Earth's new early warning system for meteors is needed more than ever

Earth's new early warning system for meteors is needed more than ever

An early warning system for meteorite impacts that can destroy entire cities is on alert this week when the Earth traverses a vast trail of people's cosmic debris.

Astronomers draw their attention to the constellation Ara in a celestial spot that lies exactly south in the Emirates after sunset. Calculations show that this probably provides the best view of the contents of the so-called tauride complex, a trace of material left by a giant comet that disintegrated thousands of years after entering the solar system.

They are looking for signs of meteors similar to the 100-meter object that crashed through the Earth's atmosphere in June 1908 and exploded with the power of 1,000 Hiroshima nuclear bombs over Siberia.

Known as the Tunguska event, it clad thousands of square miles of forest near the Tunguska River in Siberia. If such an event occurred over a city, the resulting explosion would be devastating.

When a much smaller meteor exploded high above Central Russia in February 2013, the explosion was equivalent to 500,000 tonnes of TNT detonation. Although the meteor is only 20 m wide, it has shaken buildings, blown up windows and claimed over 1600 victims, including cuts through flying glass, temporary deafness and sunburns due to the intense light of the explosion. The Taurid Complex will provide further insights into the likelihood of such events ,

It is also considered a test of a network of telescopes that allows small but potentially dangerous meteors to be detected quickly enough to warn those affected. [19659030] People look at what scientists consider to be a piece of the Chelyabinsk meteor salvaged from Chebarkul Lake near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 has been. The scientists have recovered on Wednesday could be the largest part of this meteor from Chebarkul Lake outside the city. They weighed it with a huge steel scale that weighed 570 kilograms (1,256 pounds) before breaking. (AP Photo / Alexander Firsov) "src =" http://www.thenational.ae/image/policy:1.882700:1562237953/NA00-Jul-Russia-Meteors-1.jpg?f=default&q=1.0&w=1024&$ p $ f $ q $ w = d5c885a "srcset =" /image/policy:1.882700:1562237953/NA00-Jul-Russia-Meteors-1.jpg?f=default&q=1.0&w=700&$p$f$q$w = d4aeea0 700w, /image/policy:1.882700:1562237953/NA00-Jul-Russia-Meteors-1.jpg?f=default&q=1.0&w=940&$p$f$q$w=0c62e07 940w, / image / policy: 1.882700: 1562237953 / NA00-jul-Russia-meteors-1.jpg? F = default & q = 1.0 & w = 1024 & $ p $ f $ q $ w = d5c885a 1024w "class =" img-responsive full-width "/>

    Television crews and officials gather in 2013 with a meteorite recovered from Chebarkul Lake near Chelyabinsk. AP

The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial Impact Load Alert System (ATLAS) currently consists of two telescopes in the mid-Pacific Hawaiian Islands. Further instruments will be added in the next few years.

Unlike standard telescopes, ATLAS instruments scan the entire sky every 48 hours, using computers to locate weak, fast-moving objects on Earth.

This allows you to track down meteors that blew up over Russia in 2013 and calculate their trajectory – up to a week, warning them where to strike.

The network achieved its first success last month when it discovered a meteor just arriving 4 meters wide, still 500,000 km from Earth – farther away than the Moon.

Codenamed 2019MO exploded on 22 June near the island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean with the violence of 4,000 tons of TNT. It is believed that all debris fell into the sea, but weather satellites monitoring the area experienced the explosion in the atmosphere.

  A photo taken by the Police Department of the Chelyabinsk region on 15 February 2013 shows people standing nearby a six-meter hole in the ice of a frozen lake, allegedly the site of a meteorite fall outside the city of Chebakul in the Chelyabinsk region. A falling meteor exploded with blinding lightning over Central Russia today, triggering a shockwave that shattered windows in an unprecedented event in modern times, injuring over 500 people. The local governor's office said in a statement that a meteorite had fallen in a lake outside the city of Chebakul in the Chelyabinsk region. AFP PHOTO / CHELYABINSK REGION POLICE DEPARTMENT - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NEGLIGENT CREDIT
Police stand near a six-meter hole in the ice of a frozen lake, the site of a meteor impact, outside the city of Chebakul in Chelyabinsk region. AFP

Although this coincides with the passage of Earth through the tauride complex, 2019MO is not considered part of this meteorite swarm. Instead, the astronomer believes that he came from the asteroid belt, the huge debris disc between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Nevertheless, the event provided a "dry run" for the crash warning system, which now rolls over the asteroid belt Globe.

Next year, astronomers will be using a huge telescope that will allow objects in Tunguska size months or even years before they can hit Earth.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) based in the Andes Central Chile. has a 8.4-meter-wide mirror, which photographs the entire sky every few nights. By comparing images on consecutive nights, computers can catalog more than 90 percent of objects that can pose a major threat to the Earth over the next decade.

However, finding dangerous asteroids is only the beginning. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are currently working on the very first mission to defend Earth against cosmic disasters.

This mission is called the AIDA (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment) mission. A 500 kg probe is fired into a small probe asteroid to see if it is possible to remove dangerous objects from the earth.

According to current plans, NASA will launch a probe on Didymos in June 2021, a mountain-sized asteroid with a 160-meter-wide companion in orbit.

In a collision at around 24,000 km / h, the probe leaves the smaller companion intact but slightly alters its orbit. A second probe built by ESA will then travel to Didymos and send Lander to the surface of her companion to investigate the effects of the impact.

The data will give astronomers insights into the effectiveness of poking asteroids as a method of repelling Earth's effects.

In an ESA video explaining the mission of the astrophysicist and former Queen guitarist, Dr. Brian May states that the mission will be "very, very difficult", but will help people avoid the fate of the dinosaurs that were threatened with extinction 66 million years ago by the impact of a huge asteroid (see box).

"Could we stop an asteroid from hitting planet Earth? The dinosaurs could not – but we humans have the benefit of knowledge and science on our side, "said Dr. May.

Robert Matthews is Visiting Professor of Science at Aston University, Birmingham, UK.

Updated : July 4, 2019 14:59

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