|Manu||Date: Thursday, 06-May-2021, 0:03 AM | Message # 1|
|How did you spend your week? NASA pretended to crash an asteroid into Earth.|
By Meghan Bartels 4 days ago
More than a year into a very real crisis, experts gathered virtually to confront a second emergency, a potential asteroid impact — but this disaster, fortunately, was entirely hypothetical.
Every two years, as part of the International Academy of Astronautics' Planetary Defense Conference, scientists and emergency response personnel gather to discuss a made-up asteroid threat from discovery to impact. During this year's exercise, which unfolded online from April 26 to April 28, the scenario presented an impact just six months away, a pointed reminder that limited lead time is a key weakness in our asteroid defense systems.
"The best solution to this scenario is not to get into it in the first place," Lindley Johnson, NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Officer, said during the hypothetical scenario.
Johnson and other planetary defense experts, who focus on the threat posed by near-Earth asteroids and comets, rely on a host of techniques to ensure that Earth has nothing to fear from the thousands of space rocks that rattle our planet's neighborhood.
First, there's the matter of identifying as many objects as possible, tracking their orbits as precisely as possible and understanding how large they are. The vast majority of the near-Earth asteroids and comets scientists have identified — more than 25,000 to date — pose no threat at all to Earth. These objects never end up crossing Earth's orbit with the required timing, or they're so small that they would safely burn up as they plummeted through our planet's protective atmosphere.
But large size and close proximity to Earth is a combination that makes planetary defense experts uncomfortable. So far, as scientists have gathered progressively sharper observations of these space rocks, in every case the threat has faded as those additional measurements confirm that the object will stay a safe distance from Earth.
That's great news for those of us living on the planet, of course. But planetary defense experts want to practice what to do if our luck runs out, to make sure we humans have the best chance to protect ourselves.
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