NEO (Near Earth Objects)
Asteroids, Comets, and Space Junk.
is the opinion of many that the only way for any species to survive is to
do the following:
start evolving intelligence
ASAP after the cosmic event that destroyed your predecessors (the dinosaurs
in our case which were exterminated 66 million years ago)
develop space-faring technology
ASAP then put checks in place to prevent the next cosmic event from
While it is debatable how
much progress we've made on point #1, we've made virtually no progress on
point #2 (sure we've started to observe1
but we've only taken a few "baby steps" when it comes to flying in space2).
For less than 10 million dollars a year, a formal world wide consortium3
of astronomers could be doing a better job of searching for asteroids
and comets which will eventually destroy some of, or all, human culture
if we do nothing. The loss of life notwithstanding, what price would you
place on the loss of any of the following examples: the Kaaba, the Taj Mahal,
the Parthenon, the Pantheon, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sphinx, the
Pyramids, or Stonehenge just to name a few? Visit
Foundation for more information on averting this danger.
CCD based automated observatories
like MIT's LINEAR
and others are cranking
out good results
The U.S. Space Shuttle
Fleet was permanently retired in 2011. Americans last went to the
moon in December 1972 and appear to be unwilling or unable to
This can't be done by
just one country. Bad weather has been known to stop viewing at
3-4 week periods in New Mexico. Also, asteroid viewing is only done
at night which means that daylight portions of the sky can only be done
by observatories on the other side of the Earth. We can't wait until
the shifting seasons allow western observatories access to a different
night sky because the asteroid positions change too rapidly.
Funding from the
Planetary Society Shoemaker NEO Grant enabled La Sagra
Observatory in Spain to detect
10 km (6.2 mi) asteroid
struck the Earth at
Chicxulub Crater just north of the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million
years ago (recently revised to 66) resulting in:
- the death of all large animals unable to find cover (sharks,
crocodiles, turtles, etc. where not affected)
- the extinction of the dinosaurs
1 km (.62 mi) diameter
asteroid would completely incinerate a city the size of Toronto causing
severe damage over a much broader area.
On 1908-06-30, a 50 m (150 ft) diameter asteroid leveled more than 1,000,000
hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest in Tunguska, Siberia. It is
believed that the force was the equivalent of a 3.5 megaton nuclear blast. Statistically, Tunguska class objects
will hit the Earth every 200 years.
On 2002-06-14, a 70 m (230 ft) diameter
asteroid, known as Asteroid 2002 MN, missed
the Earth by 119,000 km (74,000 mi) and wasn't noticed until several
days after it passed by because it approached Earth from the direction
of the Sun.
On 2002-06-25 it was announced
that a 2 km (1.2 mi)
diameter object, known as Asteroid 2002 NT7,
has a 10% chance of striking
the Earth on 2019-02-01. If it hits, it will cause
major damage. It should be pointed out
that if any object came close to the Earth in 2002, while the whole
US space shuttle fleet grounded (because of cracked fuel lines), mankind
could do nothing about it. Update: on 2002-07-01
NASA announced that additional observations of Asteroid 2002 NT7
prove that there is no chance of
it hitting the Earth in the next 100 years.
2002.08.18 an 800 meter diameter object
called Asteroid 2002 NY40 will make a close
approach to Earth and be visible to the naked eye starting
on the day before just south of the star Vega (in the constellation
On 2002-04-05 the journal
"Science" reported that precision measurements and orbital calculations
of Asteroid 29075 (a.k.a.
Asteroid 1950 DA) predict that this NEO
has the greater probability of striking the Earth than any other known
object. The good news is that the event shouldn't happen until 2880.
But this is only a statistical projection; another impact could
Near Earth Objects (comets and
asteroids) are a clear and present danger to all human
culture as well as Earth's current biosphere.
- If dinosaurs had developed technology then they
could have protected themselves from the asteroid strike associated
Chicxulub Crater on the coast of Yucatan, Mexico.
- Humanity has developed the necessary
technology but political-ideological pressures have neutered NASA's
ability to proceed beyond primitive NEO detection.
- Developing and implementing planetary protection technology just
may be an
evolutionarily survival prerequisite (so
thinking will doom us all). Think of this as a
protective immune system for the whole planet.
- NASA NEO links
- Mark your calendars for February 15, 2013
when asteroid 2012 DA14
will pass under the orbit of Earth's geosynchronous satellites.
While this rock is only 50 m (~150 ft) wide,
remember that similarly sized rocks were responsible for:
- It is expected to pass over Indonesia at 14:30 EST
- If it were to impact the Earth (but it will not), the
estimated energy release would be 3.5 megatons tons of TNT (220
times bigger than the Little Boy bomb dropped on Japan at the
end of WW2)
- the 1908 Tunguska
Event in Russia
- as well as Meteor Crater approximately 43 miles (69
km) east of Flagstaff, Arizona.
- Oops, on the morning of February 15, 2013
while we were waiting for the approach of
2012 DA14, an asteroid
approximately 15 m in size became an air-bursting meteor in an event
now known as
2013 Russian meteor event. More than 1,200 people
were injured by shock waves to buildings.
Arthur C. Clarke coined the term in his novel
Rendezvous with Rama where SPACEGUARD was the name of an early
warning system created following a catastrophic
- B612 Foundation (who
are looking for private donations so they can launch their own NEO
- Near Earth Objects and Planetary
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.