Image Credit: Penny4NASA

 

Yesterday, we posted an article about the frightening world of meteors and asteroids currently in orbit ‘near’ our planet. Especially in light of the surprise ‘attack’ over Russia last week, many people are wondering what we are doing now to prevent a similar event, or even a worse event. It’s funny what terrifying events do to kick-start what should have already been done. In this case, ATLAS is humanity's immediate response.

 

Recently, NASA approved $5-million USD to fund the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS). The system itself will enable us to detect asteroids 50-yards in diameter a week before they strike. Such an asteroid is considered a ‘city-killer’. Likewise, asteroids 150-yards in diameter, or ‘country killers’ can be detected up to three-weeks before impact.

 

This particular system is more of a last-ditch warning effort. It’s not a defense network, nor does it have the ability to prevent an asteroid impact in anyway. ATLAS will simply let us know that mother nature is throwing a punch at us, giving us time to make necessary evacuations and prepare for the impact event.

 

ATLAS will consist of eight small telescopes with cameras not exceeding 100 megapixels. These telescopes will be housed on the Hawaiian Islands and will scan the sky a few times a night in the hopes of seeing the asteroid streaking through the field of view. ATLAS is expected to be fully operational in 2015.

 

Asteroids themselves are some of the most dangerous objects we contend with. Yes, an asteroid of sufficient mass would cause a large extinction event on Earth not seen since the dinosaurs, but Humanity has another concern. In the age of globalization, the human species continues to build a dependence on one another in global markets. A relatively small meteor could devastate New York City, London, Beijing, Tokyo, among others, and cause incredible damage to worldwide markets – not to mention causing nearly irreparable damage to the country housing the city. If a relatively small asteroid landed in the middle of any of our agricultural regions, decimating the food supply in the process, such an event would have tremendous global ramifications – especially with a (currently) growing population. Needless to say, having a comprehensive catalog of every potentially hazardous asteroid in our sky is extremely beneficial.

 

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This article was written by Joshua


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