An artist’s illustration of a large asteroid headed for Earth.
CREDIT: ESA

 

Asteroid Hunt: Private Groups Join Search for Dangerous Space Rocks

by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 28 February 2013 Time: 07:00 AM ET

NASA is slated to get some help in the search for potentially hazardous asteroids, which is probably a positive thing considering the space-rock drama that unfolded earlier this month.

On Feb. 15, a fireball exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, damaging thousands of buildings and wounding 1,200 people. Hours later, the 130-foot-wide (40 meters) asteroid 2012 DA14 missed Earth by just 17,200 miles (27,700 kilometers), coming closer than the ring of geosynchronous satellites circling our planet.

While astronomers had predicted 2012 DA14′s close flyby, the Russian fireball caught them (and the residents of Chelyabinsk) completely off guard. The powerful explosion highlights the need for more intensive asteroid-detection efforts going forward, many researchers say.

The “meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk is a wake-up call that the Earth orbits the sun in a shooting gallery of asteroids, and that these asteroids sometimes hit the Earth,” former astronaut Ed Lu, chairman and CEO of the nonprofit B612 Foundation, wrote in a blog post after the fireball. “We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot do anything about the objects we don’t know exist.”

NASA-backed ground-based searches have spotted the vast majority of potentially dangerous near-Earth objects to date. But the B612 Foundation aims to join the hunt soon, and a pair of asteroid-mining firms hope their efforts also help keep our planet safe from marauding space rocks.

Read more: NASA Getting Help in Dangerous-Asteroid Hunt | Near-Earth Asteroids | Space.com.

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