NASA fight against asteroids dangerous to Earth just got a massive boost
NASA has developed a new system to track hazardous asteroids that could hit Earth.
In what will come as a big relief, NASA has upgraded its asteroids warning system. The US space agency has upgraded its software that assess the hazardous asteroids that could bring significant change in the Solar system and potentially pose a danger to Earth. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a new impact monitoring algorithm called Sentry-II that will upgrade software that has been in use for as long as 20 years. The Sentry-II will periodically scan the table of potentially hazardous asteroids with known orbits. The table will be generated by the Center for Near Earth Object Studies managed by JPL.
Though there are no known asteroids that can pose a threat to Earth despite decades of careful searching, Sentry-II will make calculations for at least the next decade. It will report the objects with calculated orbits most at risk to Earth. Moreover, the Sentry-II also features a key upgrade called the Yarkovsky effect that will make its assessments more accurate.
According to NASA, the Yarkovsky effect occurs when sunlight is absorbed by the surface of the asteroid and re-emitted as heat. This heat emission has a subtle, but powerful effect on the asteroid's path and can affect the space rock's probability of hitting Earth.
Though the Yarkovsky effect has known for decades, it's effect on large datasets can be analyzed now. Sentry-II will allow JPL to assess potential impacts with odds as small as a few chances in 10 million, the agency said.
Davide Farnocchia, a JPL navigation engineer, said, “Every time we came across a special case – like asteroids Apophis, Bennu, or 1950 DA – we had to do complex and time-consuming manual analyses. With Sentry-II, we don't have to do that anymore.”
NASA can field the Sentry-II for the larger and more capable survey telescopes coming online in the next decade. In fact, NASA has launched the most powerful telescope ever, the James Webb Space Telescope, just weeks ago. It will position itself a million miles from Earth in Sun orbit.
Meanwhile, nearly 28,000 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered so far. The observatories are adding more discoveries at a rate of around 3,000 per year. One of the observatories is Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor mission, which is expected to launch in 2026 will provide a dedicated spacecraft searching for asteroids. NEO Surveyor is expected to discover 90% of near-Earth asteroids of 460 feet (140 meters) size or larger.
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