The Chelyabinsk meteor was only 17-20 metres in diameter, however, causes significant damage, Windows knocked out and injured people in the explosion in the Earth’s atmosphere in February 2013. To prevent another such clash Amy Mainzer and her colleagues use a simple but cunning method to detect the tiny near-earth objects (NEO) that threaten our planet.
Amy is a senior researcher of the NASA mission to hunt for asteroids in the jet propulsion Laboratory of NASA in Pasadena, California. As she tries to protect our planet from asteroids?
“If we find an object that threatens to clash in a few days, it really limits our choices, so in my search for we are focused on finding near-earth objects when they are further from the Earth, so we can choose and we have time for this,” says Mainzer.
But the task is difficult — how to catch a smoldering ember in the night sky. These objects are very dim, because the small and are far away from us. In addition, some of them darker than black toner for the printer, and locate them against the black of space is very difficult.
Instead of finding objects in the visible light range, the Mainzer JPL decided to use the heat of the object as a meaningful signature. Asteroids and comets heated by the sun and glow in the thermal band (infrared), making them easy to detect using the telescope NEOWISE, specifically designed to search for near-earth objects in the infrared range.
“With the help of the mission NEOWISE, we can detect objects regardless of color and use it to assess their dimensions and other properties of the surface”.
Study of the surface properties of objects NEO allows Mainzer and her colleagues to determine the size of objects and their composition — both of these parameters are important in determining protective strategies against Earth-threatening bodies.
For example, one of the defense strategies is to physically “get” NEO from the Earth, to change the trajectory of the collision. But to calculate the energy required to push the weight, the size and composition of the object. Astronomers also believe that the study of the composition of asteroids will help us to understand how formed the Solar system.
“These objects are interesting in themselves, as some believe that their age is comparable with the age of the Solar system. Part of them are also quite diverse.”
Maybe one day these scientists will save the life of our planet. But which way would you? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.