This is an artist’s concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft near asteroid 1999 RQ36.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


This is an artist’s concept of the OSIRIS-REx sample collector, or “tag head,” being deployed to collect a sample of asteroid 1999 RQ36.
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

New NASA mission to help us better estimate asteroid impact hazard

February 8, 2013

(Phys.org)—Every year, sensors designed to detect nuclear explosions see harmless bursts in Earth’s upper atmosphere from the breakup of an asteroid a few yards across. Tiny asteroids are much more numerous than big ones, so destructive hits to Earth are very rare. However, because of their potential for devastation, NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) observations program supports surveys which are undertaking sustained searches to find the largest objects and predict their impact threat to Earth.

According to NASA’s NEO program, there are more than 1,300 “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids” (PHAs) – objects at least 150 yards (about 140 meters) across with a very small chance of impacting us someday because their orbital paths take them close to Earth’s orbit.

“Asteroids move at an average of 12 to 15 kilometers per second (about 27,000 to 33,000 miles per hour) relative to Earth, so fast that they carry enormous energy by virtue of their velocity,” says Edward Beshore of the University of Arizona, Tucson, deputy principal investigator for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. “Anything over a few hundred yards across that appears to be on a collision course with Earth is very worrisome.”

Read more: New NASA mission to help us better estimate asteroid impact hazard — phys.org.

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