Europe to build satellite to detect dangerous asteroids flying from Sun to Earth

February 22, 2023  20:51

The European Space Agency is working on the Near Earth Object Observing Mission in the Infrared (NEOMIR) project, which aims to make it possible to track potentially dangerous asteroids that cannot be detected by existing means, reports

Detecting potentially Earth-threatening asteroids today is mostly done by ground-based robotic observatories. But there is a blind spot for them, the part of space between the Sun and Earth that is difficult to observe because of the sun's rays. The meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk in 2013 came from that part of the universe and clearly showed that this region of the universe cannot be ignored. There could be many similar objects near the Sun that could cause serious damage if they hit the Earth.

Modern observational instruments are quite good at finding large asteroids a hundred meters in diameter or more. Mankind must learn to detect such objects long before they might collide with Earth, at least ten years in advance. In fact, almost all of the potentially dangerous objects for Earth have already been identified and listed, and control over them, so to speak, has been established. The problem is with comets, which appear every 200 years, but that's another story and nothing can be done about it. But in the case of early detection of small asteroids a few tens of meters in diameter, something can be done.

The European NEOMIR project is designed for relatively small asteroids, which it will look for in the infrared, not the visible range. It is impossible to carry out such a project from Earth, unless the telescope is lifted into the high atmosphere by airplane or balloon, and there are no obstacles to observations in space.

The NEOMIR infrared space telescope will be located at the Lagrangian point L1 between the Earth and the Sun. Asteroids with a diameter of ten meters or more can be detected at least three weeks before a possible collision with the Earth, and in the worst case, three days before the collision. This would be enough time to evacuate people from the expected impact zone. The NEOMIR telescope, of course, will not prevent a possible asteroid collision with the Earth, but it will help save many lives. NEOMIR is scheduled to be realized in the 2030s.

NASA plans to use the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Surveyor telescope, due to be launched in 2026, to detect potentially Earth-threatening objects at an early stage. It is expected to be able to explore the solar system very effectively, including blind spots caused by sunlight.

Earlier, China proposed a new warning system for dangerous asteroids. Chinese researchers have proposed deploying a new system consisting of six spacecraft in Venus-like orbits that would aim to detect and warn of potentially threatening asteroids as quickly as possible.

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