NASA has announced a new planetary defense strategy which involves the construction of a high-power telescope which should be able to detect asteroids who follow a collision course towards Earth.
The announcement comes after a large asteroid passed by Earth almost two months ago. It was classified as a near miss and event started a wave of debates and discussions since it was spotted a day before it went by Earth.
According to a NASA employee, the object posed a real challenge for the current survey network and managed to pass undetected for a long time. The severity of the incident led to the funding of the new NASA telescope, which is currently in development.
The new telescope is based on a previous concept which was showcased in 2013. It will use infrared instruments to scan the sky and search for potential threats. Initial data infers that the telescope could boost the detection by up to 65% percent within five years of being operational. To accelerate the development of the project it was classified as a planetary defense tool, a status which offers additional funding and resources which wouldn’t be available in the case of scientific projects.
At this point, the task of tracking down asteroids is quite difficult, especially when we are talking about Near-Earth Objects, which tend to take researchers by surprise. They are intrinsically faint due to their small size, and some of them are dark, which makes the task even more complicated.
In 2013 a small asteroid exploded above Chelyabinsk in Russia. The small asteroid released a shattering shock wave which damaged thousands of buildings and led to a large number of injuries caused by panic.
By combining the upcoming infrared telescope with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope located in Chile the chances to detect asteroids will be considerably higher. More information about the project will be shared in the future.