Did you ever wonder how we spot asteroids that may be getting too close to Earth for comfort? Wonder no more. NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is on the job.
Thanks to a variety of ground and space based telescopes, we’re able to detect potentially hazardous objects so we can prepare for the unlikely threat against our planet.
As of Oct. 20, there were a confirmed 2,018 potentially hazardous asteroids that continue to be tracked and accounted for but we never know when a “rebel asteroid” may deviate from it’s orbit and head right for our planet.
NASA established the PDCO to manage its ongoing mission of planetary defense and thanks to its continuing early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHOs) — the subset of near earth objects (NEOs) they can now predict which will come within 5 million miles of Earth’s orbit; and are of a size large enough to cause significant damage on Earth;
We have no control over these NEOs that orbit the Sun like the planets do, but their orbits can bring them into Earth’s neighborhood, is considered to be 30 million miles.
It is hoped that by continued tracking of these PHOs, warnings can be issued of the possible potential impacts and in some way mitigating them.
Needless to say it’s an enormous task to locate and track these elusive space objects, but by employing a variety of ground and space based telescopes the PDCO hopes to do exactly that.
It is one thing to locate and identify these space threats, but how can we go about warning the U.S. public as to the threat or dangers they may face?
The PDCO is responsible for providing timely and accurate information to the government, the media, and the public on close approaches to Earth by PHOs and any potential for impact.
If any PHO is found to pose a significant chance of impacting Earth (greater than 1 percent over the next 50 years), the PDCO will provide notification messages for NASA to send to the Executive Office of the President, the U.S. Congress, and other government departments and agencies.
It is one thing to identify the hazards the NEOs may present, but what are the possibilities of our mitigating their approach to no impact takes place?
Among its vast assortment of duties it has, the PDCO sponsors studies of technologies and techniques for deflecting an asteroid off a predicted impact course with Earth. It is developing missions to demonstrate those technologies and determine their effectiveness in the event that these techniques must be utilized against a predicted asteroid impact threat.
I think it is great that the PDCO works and coordinates with other government agencies to develop and update a National NEO Preparedness, Strategy and Action Plan.
This plan provides expert input on the nature and effects of asteroid impacts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) so that adequate emergency response can be prepared in the event of a PHO impact that is not possible to avoid.
I think we can all agree that our primary concern is with an asteroid impact that could take place in the United States, but what about other countries that exist on our planet?
The PDCO finds itself involved in coordinating efforts with the space agencies of other nations as a member of the multinational International Asteroid Warning Network and the Space Missions Planning Advisory Group under the endorsement of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
No one can know when some unknown space object might threaten us, but it is a bit comforting to know that there are people and agencies out there that are looking out for our welfare.