Two months ago, NASA’s scientists disappointed a lot of people by not being able to detect on time the largest asteroid to pass closest to Earth in the last century. The asteroid named “2019 OK” could escape detection until the day it passed by our planet on July 24th and when an observatory from Brazil reported it.
Therefore, NASA needs bigger and more powerful telescopes to detect all the “unwanted rocky guests” for our planet. And they want to invest a lot of money and knowledge to create a planetary defense system.
NASA’s idea is not new at all
Let’s face it: we live in an unimaginably big Universe. Therefore, it may be physically impossible for scientists to detect all the threats from outer space. But NASA’s plan may do the job pretty well. Astronomers of the space agency want to create an infrared telescope based on a previous concept from six years ago, named NEOCam.
Astronomer Amy Mainzer says “NEOs (Near Earth Objects) are intrinsically faint because they are mostly really small and far away from us in space.
“Add to this the fact that some of them are as dark as printer toner, and trying to spot them against the black of space is very hard.”
The discovery rate of the asteroids would be improved by up to 90 percent
The NEOCam-like infrared telescope would be placed on an Earth’s satellite and it will improve the discovery rate of asteroids by 65 percent in only 5 years, according to an official of NASA. The same space agency claims that the discovery rate will improve with a stunning 90 percent after 10 years.
According to Jay Melosh, a planetary scientist at Purdue University warned of how many asteroids there are in space which need the help of an infrared system to detect them.
He added: “There are a lot of really dark asteroids out there and that pushes the need for the infrared system.”
It’s yet unknown how and if NASA will receive funding for their hypothetical planetary defense system, but the space agency is currently testing Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission which is being built by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory. DART is designed to deflect the path of dangerous asteroids.
It is widely believed that a huge asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs approximately 65 million years ago, creating an enormous crater and abundant ashes which blocked the sunlight for many years. And no sunlight means no more oxygen for the plants to be making, therefore complex life forms will die. It isn’t a matter of will such a scenario will repeat itself, but WHEN it will. Let’s just hope that until then humanity will be advanced enough technologically to handle the threat.