What if a planet-killing asteroid is speeding towards Earth? Would we be prepared enough to survive space rock using planetary defense systems? To answer these basic but very important questions, more than 100 astronomers, including scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), simulated an impact scenario with the actually existing asteroid Apophis. This test was carried out last year to determine our ability to defend against such “potentially dangerous” asteroids.
An exercise to defend the Earth. Last year, scientists around the world took part in a simulated planetary defense scenario using the asteroid Apophis. Exercises like these can help global response efforts should a dangerous asteroid be discovered in the future. https://t.co/cAvorMCPeh pic.twitter.com/a3CZzRZrus
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) May 31, 2022
During the simulated scenario, astronomers removed Apophis from the planetary defense monitoring database to see if it could be properly detected again. They also claimed to have found the asteroid, discovered in 2014, for the first time to practice reacting quickly to avoid an impact. Organized by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the International Asteroid Warning Network, the exercise and its results were published in the Planetary Science Journal.
Did they succeed?
To track the path of the approaching asteroid, experts analyzed data from the asteroid Apophis during its recent flyby which occurred in December last year. Vishnu Reddy, associate professor at the University of Arizona, said in a statement: “This real-world scientific contribution has stress tested the entire planetary defense response chain, from initial detection to determination. from orbit to measuring the physical characteristics of the asteroid and even determining if, and where, it might hit Earth.
Thanks to observations from a number of observatories, including the NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) telescope, not only have astronomers rediscovered the asteroid, but its chances of hitting Earth have been reduced. continually reassessed as it was tracked, and the possibility of impact was ruled out. NASA highlighted the role of NEOWISE saying that timely detection would not have been possible without it. NEOWISE is a space telescope and provides infrared observations that would not have been possible from the ground because the humidity of the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs light at these wavelengths.
“NEOWISE was able to confirm the rediscovery of Apophis while quickly gathering valuable information that could be used in planetary defense assessments, such as its size, shape, and even clues to its composition and surface properties,” said Akash Satpathy, another contributor to the study. The study found that astronomers were also able to estimate Apophis’ impact energy and potential impact locations on Earth. Experts say data gathered in advance could help prepare defense systems and alert disaster agencies to possible evacuation efforts.
Measuring 340 meters in diameter, the asteroid Apophis was initially thought to strike Earth around 2029 or possibly later, however, follow-up observations later confirmed that Earth would be at no risk from the space rock for at least the next 100 years. However, when it comes to the survival of a giant asteroid, another study conducted by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) claimed that Earth would be defenseless even if the asteroid were discovered six months before the Earth. impact.
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