Early warning

Well, if they won’t fund the deflection system, at least we’ll know when they’re coming so we can get out of the way:

With the aid of a $5-million grant from NASA, a University of Hawaii team of astronomers is developing ATLAS, a system to identify dangerous asteroids before their final plunge to Earth.

The team is on track to build and operate an asteroid detection system that will patrol the visible sky twice a night looking for faint objects moving through space.

ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System) will operate up to 8 small telescopes, each fitted with cameras of up to 100 megapixels, on mounts housed at one or two locations in the Hawaiian Islands.

Astronomers expect the system to be fully operational by the end of 2015.

Astronomer John Tonry compared ATLAS’s sensitivity to detecting a match flame in New York City when viewed from San Francisco.

The team predicts the system will offer a one-week warning for a 50-yard diameter asteroid or “city killer” and three weeks for a 150 yard-diameter “county killer.”

“That’s enough time to evacuate the area of people, take measures to protect buildings and other infrastructure, and be alert to a tsunami danger generated by ocean impacts,” Tonry said.

2 Responses to Early warning

  1. lless February 18, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Some perspective is needed. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, and for that matter Ghengis Khan all proved impervious to asteroid attacks. Yeah, the dinosaurs took a hit (but if you’re of a biblical bent we survived that one too.) It’s the same universe it always was. So now it’s unlimited millions to deflect asteroids, while we little tadpoles swim around in a simmering pot.

  2. Izquierdo February 18, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Mere detection seems far less useful than deflection.

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