The US-based space agency has announced that it will team up with the University of Central Florida (UCF) in order to find killer asteroids. The asteroids being targeted are ones large enough to wipe out tens of millions of people on earth.
Dr Yan Fernandez, professor at UCF, explained that the two parties will be looking to prevent NEO’s, also known as near-Earth objects.
She went on to explain that there are only 10,000 NEOs that experts currently know about.
Dr Fernandez is part of the four-year mission to observe and characterise the objects that pose a threat to Earth.
The observable asteroids also act as candidates for potential future space missions, in which astronauts would collect samples in order to further understanding of space matter.
NASA has announced a new earth saving partnership
Arecibo is in the Puerto Rican mountains
To find the NEOs, UCF will use its most up to date and landmark observatory Arecibo in Puerto Rico, in which clear skies will enable researchers to fully embrace the immediacy of the dangers.
Mr Fernandez said: “We will be able to help know what is really the hazard in the asteroid environment out there in space and the fact UCF can contribute to that is tremendously gratifying”
Arecibo has the most sensitive planetary radar system in the world.
UCF took over the observatory in 2018 and are set to make best use of it.
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In order to boost the mission, NASA is giving UCF $19 million – though it is thought that the hunt for NEOs will be hard.
NASA has been directed to find 90 percent world-ending asteroids that are equal to or greater than 460 feet (140 meters) in size by 2020.
The problem of potential asteroid collisions is so big, ever year, there is an Hiroshima level asteroid explosion somewhere in the Earth’s atmosphere.
UCF is therefore becoming NASA’s go to school in order to effectively save the planet.
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Mr Fernandez said: “It’s great for UCF, great for us as scientists. We feel like we’re doing not just an academic experience and studying rocks in the stars – It could be lifesaving.”
UCF and its those working alongside the university in Puerto Rico will spend 800 hours a year using the telescope searching for planet killers.
Data from NASA shows the third closest asteroid approach of 2019, closer than some satellites orbiting our planet.
The satellite, was travelling at speeds of 57,937mph according to NASA.
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Tony Dunn, an amateur astronomer, said 2019 RP1 “was undiscoverable prior to closest approach because it came from our daytime side, but it was picked up quickly when it entered our night sky”.
NASA estimates the rock was between 23 and 56 feet in diameter.
That makes it the same size as the rock that entered our atmosphere and exploded above Russia in 2013. causing plenty of damage.
While 2019 R91 passed without incident, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has warned the chances of an impact are more than people realise.
Asteroids could kill tens of millions
The former Republican congressman has said: “We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it’s not about the movies.
“This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know, right now, to host life – and that is the planet Earth.
Though the move from NASA and UCF is a positive step in the direction of planetary protection, SpaceX chief Elon Musk has previously tweeted fears of a deadly collision that Earth was not prepared for.