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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora