NASA will be introducing a new system, Scout, which will be able to detect any asteroids passing by our planet and approximate their chances of hitting our planet.
The new program is currently being tested at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Pasadena, California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Scout, which is programmed to scout the constantly scout the sky, will be looking for any possible celestial intruder, or asteroids known as Near Earth Objects.
These can be either comets or asteroids whose course has suffered a gravitational attraction which changed their course and brought them into the Earth’s gravitational field or neighborhood.
In case one such space object is detected, the program then calculates the chance percentage that the respective object will be hitting Earth.
According to this approximation, the system will then either classify it as a non-threat or will instruct other telescope and space surveillance systems to keep track of the object and further investigate its trajectory.
As NASA has a number of telescopes scanning the night sky every night, the statistics show that more than five asteroids are found on the nightly basis.
The need for the Scout program comes from the fact that although telescopes discover such space objects, their distance in regards to our planet is quite harder to find out.
According to Paul Chodas, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) astronomer, the best way to gather data on such asteroids is to point a bigger number of telescopes towards them.
This would lead to more information which would make it easier to determine the exact size and trajectory of the object. But, as in some cases time is of the essence, such practices can be quite slow.
As some such asteroids can close in on Earth in just a matter days or sometimes hours after their detection, the Scout system should enable a faster, more accurate confirmation process.
As the Scout system should come to be used to its full potential later this same year, it will mostly deal with closer, smaller space objects.
Scout’s detection mission is already completed by an existing, operational system called Sentry. The latter system is used in order to detect large, Near Earth Objects which could potentially cause damages to our planet.
As the Sentry should come to detect 90 percent of all the larger than 140 meters objects, it still has to reach its target. Current estimates determined a discovery rate of about 25-30 percent of the probable existing large objects numbers.
An improvement to the rates will probably come after the inauguration of the new telescope, called Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which is under construction in Chile.
As NASA is testing its Scout detection system, it is also reportedly considering setting up a telescope whose sole target will be to search such Near Earth Objects.
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