Astronomers discovered more than 15,000 asteroids which could potentially pose a threat to Earth, according to a Friday release.
Global asteroid detection programs found more than 15,146 near-Earth objects of all sizes with 1,532 new near-Earth objects being identified this year alone, according to International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planets Center. These newly discovered near-Earth objects are part of a much larger population of more than 700,000 known asteroids in our Solar System.
“The rate of discovery has been high in the past few years, and teams worldwide have been discovering on average 30 new ones per week,” Dr. Ettore Perozzi, manager of the Near Earth Object [NEO] Coordination Centre at the European Space Agency, said in a press statement Friday. “A few decades back, 30 were found in a typical year, so international efforts are starting to pay off. We believe that 90% of objects larger than 1000 m have been discovered, but – even with the recent milestone – we’ve only found just 10% of the 100 m NEOs and less than 1% of the 40 m ones.”
NASA and its European partners are now focused on finding objects that are 450 feet in diameter or larger, which could devastate a city or country if they struck Earth.
In the event an asteroid couldn’t be prevented from hitting Earth, the Planetary Defense Coordination Office would work with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies to coordinate disaster response.
The federal “omnibus” budget approved last month includes $50 million for near-earth object observations and planetary defense, up from just $4 million in 2010.
Four asteroids came uncomfortably close to Earth earlier this month, according to NASA’s Asteroid and Comet Watch.
NASA director Charles Bolden told reporters in 2013 that the only response to a possible asteroid collision with Earth is to “Pray.”
A different asteroid came disturbingly close to Earth in March, and was 16 times closer to Earth than the Moon. It actually passed closer to the world than many communications satellites. Though Earth is safe for now, NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies identifies a 1-in-250-million chance the asteroid could impact Earth on Sept. 28, 2017.
The new office will aggregate other American asteroid detection programs, such as Near Earth Asteroid Tracking, the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search, and the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System. The office will also work with international partners, such as the Italian Campo Imperatore Near-Earth Object Survey and the Japanese Spaceguard Association.
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