The Chelyabinsk meteor is the largest natural space object, which has entered the Earth’s atmosphere for over 100 years. He only went unnoticed because he came from the direction of the Sun, hiding in the blind spot until it was too late.
Fortunately, events such as those that took place in Chelyabinsk in 2013 are rare. According to ESA estimates, such large space rocks enter the Earth’s atmosphere once every 50-100 years. Astronomers continue to monitor objects that begin to approach Earth at dangerous distances. At this moment, no known asteroid threatens our planet for the next century. However, the problem is those objects that cannot be seen.
At any given moment, the Sun obscures countless asteroids from view. This also applies to the so-called group of near-Earth asteroids known to astronomers Apollo Groups. They circulate in orbits that intersect the Earth’s orbit. Also Atena Group orbits dangerously close to the Sun while also circling inside Earth’s orbit.
Most of these rocks are probably small enough to pose no major threat, but there are many undiscovered asteroids larger than 140 meters in diameter. They are large enough to cause catastrophic damage on impact. They are sometimes called “city killers”. “We think we have found about 40% of these asteroids with a radius of 140 meters.” – said Mainzer.
Scientists have a plan to solve the problem of the invisible asteroids threatening our planet. These are space telescopes that use infrared imaging. Terrestrial telescopes have limitations due to the barrier created by the Earth’s atmosphere, which causes light reflected from distant objects to flicker and scatter.
Therefore, sending infrared telescopes into space is the only solution, taking into account the technology currently available, where they will be free from distorting influence of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Thanks to this, even dark asteroids will be visible to the lens of these telescopes they glowed like hot coals. Currently, humanity has one such telescope that uses infrared light to search for near-Earth asteroids, the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE). However, NEOWISE is unable to look towards the Sun, so a new telescope is needed, with greater durability and observation capabilities. Launch of the first modern NASA NEO Surveyor telescope scheduled for 2027.
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