Terrifying! These tiny asteroids sneak up and crash into Earth, even NASA can’t catch them

    While NASA is efficient in observing and keeping track of larger asteroids, it is the smaller ones which escape its vigilance. And that can be terrifying for the Earth. Find out the risk these tiny and sneaky space rocks pose.
    By: HT TECH
    | Updated on: Aug 09 2022, 10:54 IST
    This asteroid is worth $10,000 Quadrillion
    16 Psyche
    1/6 hereas other asteroids are generally made up of ice or rocks, this unique asteroid is made up of nickel, which is one of the building blocks of the solar system. One of the biggest asteroids in our Solar System, the 16 Psyche asteroid is made up of gold, nickel and iron deposits and is supposedly worth more than Earth's economy. The asteroid is worth nearly $10,000 Quadrillion. (NASA)
    Asteroid and Earth
    2/6 The Psyche Mission will also help scientists to study and understand iron cores, a previously unexplored building block of planet formation. The 16 Psyche asteroid mission is a part of NASA's Discovery missions. (Pixabay)
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    3/6 The findings of this mission could enable scientists to develop a way of using asteroids as resources. Asteroids could come in handy when building structures in space, such as bases on other planets or even the Moon. Due to their 85 percent metal structure, they could be an excellent source of minerals. It is even said that the raw materials extracted from asteroids could even exceed the metal reserves present on Earth. (NASA)
    4/6 The mission has been in the phase known as assembly, test, and launch operations since March 2021. Since the launch window is limited, scientists and engineers have worked round the clock in order to finish the spacecraft's assembly in time. However, due to unexpected software issues, the mission has now been delayed and pushed to 2023. (NASA)
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    5/6 NASA said, "Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft's flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on October 11. The mission team needs more time to ensure that the software will function properly in flight." (NASA)
    6/6 In order to reach the asteroid, the spacecraft will fly by Mars for a gravity assist in May 2023 and, in early 2026, orbit around asteroid Psyche in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. NASA says that the Psyche mission is expected to launch in both 2023 and 2024, but due to the uncertainties, the exact dates of these potential launch periods are yet to be determined. (NASA)
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    The Earth is vulnerable to smaller asteroids and gets regularly struck by them. And these are the asteroids that even NASA cannot spot in time. Know why this is concerning for us. (AP)

    Due to the constant vigilance of various NASA telescopes as well as observatories by other space agencies, today more than 29,000 dangerous asteroids in the solar system are being tracked. Observing these potentially hazardous asteroids helps the scientists prepare prediction models to assess their impact threat and prepare us for any countermeasures. Recently, the European Space Agency was able to use these models to eliminate the possibility of a particularly terrifying asteroid 2021 QM1 striking the planet in 2052. However, this entire system is efficient to a point. Larger asteroids are not a problem for our powerful telescopes as they can mostly be located and tracked, but when these space rocks go under 10 meters, that is when trouble for Earth starts. NASA, or others, are not really very good at spotting them and that can have disastrous consequences for us.

    In February this year, an asteroid named 2022 EB5 was spotted striking the Earth near the coastal region of Iceland. Interestingly, the first time it was spotted was merely two hours before the impact. But by then, it was too late to do anything about it and the asteroid smashed into the ground. Luckily, it was just 2-meters wide and did not do much damage in an already remote landscape. But the situation can quickly turn scary if the scenario is changed slightly. If the asteroid had smashed into a densely populated city, a tragedy would would have taken place.

    Tiny asteroids pose a different threat to the Earth and NASA can't spot them all

    In 2013, a meteor exploded above the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia. It created a massive shockwave upon exploding above ground that created massive damage in an area 100s of kilometers wide. According to Russian authorities, around 1,400 people sought medical attention and 112 people were hospitalized as a result of it. The injuries were not caused directly by the shockwave but due to secondary blast effects like shattered glass, damaged infrastructure and more. And just like 2022 EB2, this asteroid was not spotted earlier either.

    “Tiny asteroids like 2022 EB5 are numerous, and they impact into the atmosphere quite frequently – roughly every 10 months or so. But very few of these asteroids have actually been detected in space and observed extensively prior to impact, basically because they are very faint until the last few hours, and a survey telescope has to observe just the right spot of sky at the right time for one to be detected”, said Paul Chodas, the director of CNEOS at JPL, as quoted by NASA.

    Now, the concern is, if NASA cannot spot these asteroids, then one of them can easily explode near or above a heavily populated area and can cause widespread death and damage. This terrifying fate is not a matter of if but when. So far, the Earth has been incredibly lucky because the Chelyabinsk incident is the worst one to have taken place in recent history. However, as one such asteroid crashes into the Earth every 10 months, escaping it forever might not be possible. Whether NASA develops a technology to spot and strike them down in space is something that remains to be seen.

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    First Published Date: 09 Aug, 10:54 IST
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