Asteroids remain one of the major threats to humanity which could wipe out a civilisation in an instant – and experts have said there are tens of millions which are yet to be discovered. If these space rocks are not found, they could pose a risk to Earth as experts claimed anything larger than 10 metres could explode on our planet with the power of a nuclear bomb. The team behind Asteroid Day – an awareness day which falls on June 30 each year – has said that just 21,443 asteroids which pose a huge threat to humanity have been discovered.
While this number seems large, there are tens of millions of near Earth objects (NEOs) in the solar system alone which have yet to be found and have the potential to cause large scale destruction on our planet.
A statement from the Asteroid Day organisers, which includes Dr Holger Sierks, principal investigator Rosetta/OSIRIS and Dr Patrick Michel, AIDA/Hera principal investigator, read: “There are several tens of millions of NEOs larger than 10 meters in size that would have an energy larger than a small nuclear weapon if they entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and we have identified just 21,443, as of 5th November, 2019.
“These bodies are leftover matter from the formation of planets and range in size from a few meters to tens of kilometres.
“As with Earth, NEOs orbit the Sun and sometimes they come dangerously close or cross Earth’s trajectory – potentially causing impacts.
“This has happened several times in the past and one day it will happen again.”
The team is now calling on more protection for our planet, and said that the likes of the joint ESA and NASA project AIDA (Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment) are a good start.
The statement added: “Unlike other natural disasters, an asteroid impact with Earth is not only one we know how to predict but one we can also prevent, by means that just need to be tested.
“Today, we are the first generation of humans who have the necessary technology to try to change the trajectory of an asteroid.
“With early detection and increased knowledge of the properties of NEOs, we can enhance our tools and techniques under study to deflect NEOs away from Earth retiring the risk of an asteroid impact for good.”
There are some other plans in the pipeline which are looking to protect Earth from asteroids.
NASA is currently studying Asteroid Bennu, where its OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft arrived last year.
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Part of the reason NASA is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft there is to gather more information about the space rock which is 500 metres in length.
NASA fears that the asteroid, which has the potential to wipe out a country on Earth, could hit our planet within the next 120 years, with the next close flyby in 2135.
The mission will give vital information on how to deflect asteroids from their collision course with Earth, but NASA reiterates that while there is a small chance Earth could be impacted, “over millions of years, of all of the planets, Bennu is most likely to hit Venus.”
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