NASA is developing a telescope to detect asteroids

אסטרואיד יחלוף היום סמוך לכדור הארץ (צילום: twitter)

NASA has approved this development Space telescope The forewarning to humanity is new Asteroids AndComets It may collideEarth. The new telescope, the NEO Surveyor, will detect the US Space Agency’s near-Earth bodies (NEO) and significantly increase its proximity to a radius of 50 million kilometers from our home world.

The planet is still vulnerable

NASA has so far estimated that only about 40% of the Earth’s asteroids with a diameter of more than 140 meters have been detected, out of an estimated population of 25,000 such objects. Regional, continental and global.

In 2005, the US Congress instructed NASA to locate, classify, list and monitor 90% of key asteroids by 2020. This goal was not achieved for two main reasons: First, some meteorites come from the dazzling sun, which does not allow us to detect faint objects such as asteroids that currently do not have a satisfactory technical solution – and fear suddenly emerges from the direction of the sun over a large object.

Imaging of the Survey Space Telescope in operation. Red dots indicate thermal signatures from near-Earth objects NASA / JBL-Caltech

Another problem is the difficulty of constantly scanning the sky with ground-based telescopes. Floor-based telescopes are affected by two limitations: they only operate at night – only on clear nights. So, in 2013 NASA updated the Infrared Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, to a space telescope that turned it into a close-up object hunt – a mission neovis. The new routes are a huge success, the telescope is about 2,000 asteroids new, but NASA understands that they will need a more powerful and powerful space telescope to reach the goal set by Congress.

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As in its predecessor’s office, the new Survivor Space Telescope operates on the infrared spectrum of light because some asteroids are too dark and reflect slightly back from sunlight. On the other hand, as the sun approaches it, it heats them up even more, and these are heat emissions that the survivor can detect. Another advantage of asteroid hunting in infrared is that the thermal signature allows not only to identify the object and its path, but also to indicate its size – as the whole object emits heat. Xavier is designed to detect more than 90% of asteroids over 140 meters in the first decade of its operation.

Of course, finding risk is not enough – and the idea behind discovery and characterization is to give scientists enough time to anticipate potential harm. An example of this was found in a preparatory exercise conducted by the US and European space agencies in April this year. In an imaginary scenario held as part of the Planetary Defense Conference, an asteroid orbiting Earth was discovered half a year ago. The crew did not have enough information about the asteroid vehicle and did not have enough time to begin a mission to locate its vehicle, which was “destroyed” within a 100 km radius between Germany and the Czech Republic at the end of an imaginary asteroid exercise.

Asteroid (Photo: Image Bank / Thinkstock)
Photo: Image Bank / Thinkstock

To avoid such a terrifying scenario, space telescope surveillance would have to give humanity the longest warning for many years. It should be emphasized that the warning is only one side of the planetary defense equation, and NASA plans to launch a dual asteroid diversion test, or DART, this year to try to divert an asteroid from its orbit.

The Survey Space Telescope is currently being developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), under the supervision of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), established in 2016. If the telescope successfully passes all preliminary tests, it will be launched in the first half of 2026.

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