News / Science & Technology

Scientists Debate, Prepare for Killer Asteroid

Scientists Debate, Prepare For Killer Asteroidi
X
November 19, 2013 7:52 PM
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes. Now, add asteroids to the list of natural disasters that can threaten humanity and all life on our planet. VOA’s Adam Phillips has more on giant space rocks and what might be done to prevent a fateful rendezvous with these orbiting nemeses.
Adam Phillips
Earthquakes,  Tsunamis,  Volcanoes.  Now, add asteroids to the list of natural disasters that can threaten humanity and all life on our planet. 
 
For decades, Hollywood films like Deep Impact and Armageddon have let  moviegoers enjoy the terror of fictional earthbound asteroids from the safety of their seats.
 
But on February 15th of this year, residents of Chelyabinsk in central Russia discovered that the threat is as real as it gets.  

That meteorite wounded more than 1,000 people - a pinprick compared to the one that probably wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and far more benign than the meteor that exploded over Siberia in1908, leveling more than 2,000 square kilometers of forest.

Or the meteorite that hit present day Arizona, 50,000 years ago, and made a crater large enough to swallow up the entire city of San Francisco.

But those strikes were no flukes.

There are an estimated 10,000 known asteroids orbiting our region of the inner solar system.  That’s just one percent of the million or more asteroids scientists believe to be our near neighbors in the inner Solar System.

Recently, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson warned about....

" ...asteroids crashing to earth as meteorites or exploding in the atmosphere. That would be bad," he said.

He invited a group of concerned astronaut-scientists from the Association of Space Explorers, which included Thomas Jones.

“So one of these big explosions is capable of causing a global shutdown in agriculture and starving billions of people to death, as well as those who are killed by the actual explosion itself.  Now small asteroids might level a city, but we could still lose hundreds of thousands of people," said Jones.

Asteroids are chunks of dark mineral rich rock that reflect almost no sunlight, so they are hard to spot from Earth.  But infrared sensors on a space-based telescope could detect the heat they have absorbed from the sun.

That will be the job of the Sentinel Deep Space Telescope, bristling with infrared sensors, along with mapping and communications gear.  The Sentinel mission is the brainchild of former astronaut Edward Lu and his B612 Foundation, which is committed to reducing the asteroid threat.  Sentinel is scheduled to launch in 2018.

“Our telescope is sensitive enough that you actually can see a charcoal briquette against a black sky from ten times the distance from New York to Los Angeles," said Lu.

Once the asteroids are spotted and their orbits determined, an earthbound asteroid can be nudged slightly off course with a satellite deflector or a high velocity projectile, or blown up with nuclear weapons, causing it to miss its deadly rendezvous.

Much like Hollywood imagined it would in the 1957 science fiction film The Day the Sky Exploded.
 
But this time it’s the real world that would be saved.  

Video production by Daniela Schrier.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid