According to reports, Asteroid 2015 BN509—bigger than the Empire State Building and larger than London’s Shard—could smash into our planet in the near future after soaring past Earth last week.
2015 BN509 barely missed Earth last week but astronomers warn it could pose a risk to humanity. Astronomers saw it fly past Earth by a giant radio telescope called the Arecibo Observatory. According to estimates, the asteroid is approximately 200 meters wide and 400 meters long. Astronomers warned that at its closest approach, it came just 14 times the distance between Earth and the moon.
Dr Edgard Rivera-Valentín, a planetary scientist with the Universities Space Research Association who studies data from The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, told the Business Insider: “The peanut shape comes from the fact that it is a contact binary where the two parts [of asteroids] could not successfully orbit each other and fell back together.”
“Arecibo goes beyond acting as a fortune teller, we can characterize these objects,” said Dr. Rivera-Valentín.
“An asteroid impact, unlike other natural catastrophes, can actually be avoided.”
“”The data from Arecibo can be used by NASA to inform a planetary defense mission.”
NASA is even prepared for potentially hazardous asteroids. Sort of.
The US Space Agency has an asteroid early warning system called Scout in place. Within 10 minutes of spotting an incoming asteroid, it can project potential flight paths. When a potentially dangerous object it spotted, it alerts three other telescopes so follow-up observations can be performed, and that scientists can narrow down the rock’s trajectory.
According to reports, each year roughly 1,500 Near-Earth-Objects (NEOs) are identified, and NASA has already identified more than 90 per cent of them larger than 1 kilometer.
In order to spot more potentially dangerous objects, NASA has proposed building infra-red space telescope called NEOCam to help locate more NEOs.
“The NEOCAM project is working to identify activities that could be done this year that would reduce the technical, schedule, and cost risk of a future mission,” said David Schurr, the deputy director of NASAs planetary science program.
The so-called NEOCam Space Telescope would survey regions of space which are closest to our planet’s orbit, where scientists believe are large quantities of hazardous asteroids. In order to find out their characteristics and physical properties, NEOCam would use infra-red light.