NASA identified at least 10 asteroids and comets with orbits that could pose a threat to Earth, according to data published Monday.
The ten “potentially hazardous objects” were identified in a survey that located 97 previously unknown celestial objects, 28 of which were classified as near-Earth. The asteroids and comets were identified by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope.
NASA scientists said undetected asteroids, similar to those identified by NEOWISE, pose a huge risk to Earth.
“First – no choice in deflection or taking the hit,” Dr. Joseph A. Nuth, a senior asteroid scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We will be hit and the population will be unprepared for a problem. The most likely hits will be by small bodies 10 – 15 meters [32 -49 feet] in diameter.”
“Impact of an object large enough to do damage at the surface is very rare, perhaps only a few times a century, and most of course will occur in the oceans,” echoed Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defense officer. “But as the Chelyabinsk Event in Russia on 15 February 2013 demonstrates they can occur and without warning because our current survey systems are not yet robust enough to catch everything that can hit Earth and do damage.”
A potentially hazardous object (PHO) is a sizable near-Earth asteroid or comet that’s close enough to Earth’s orbit to cause significant regional damage in the event of impact. There are 1,806 known potentially hazardous asteroids, according to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet’s Center.
Of these, 157 are suspected to be larger than one kilometer [0.6 miles] in diameter and are thus capable of doing serious damage to civilization if they struck Earth.
Johnson said NASA has only cataloged 30 percent of all small asteroids speeding through our solar system, meaning there’s a large risk of impact from an undiscovered object.
None of the detected asteroids are currently on course for Earth, but several of them are on orbital pathways that could potentially make a collision possible.
“None are currently known to be an impactor, though some have an orbit that makes it possible,” Nuth said.
NASA scientists ran a simulation in 2014 to test humanity’s response time to a comet on a collision course with Earth, the results were detailed in a study published last month.
NASA determined humanity is woefully unprepared for a similar object approaching Earth since it would need at least five years to construct a reliable spacecraft but likely wouldn’t get enough time.
Congress approved $50 million for near-earth object observations and planetary defense in 2016, up from just $4 million in 2010. This money will be spent improving NASA’s ability to detect asteroids, hopefully allowing for more warning.
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