[meteorite-list] After Chelyabinsk: European Experts Assess Asteroid Options

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 8 May 2013 12:55:37 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201305081955.r48JtbuV020840_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


After Chelyabinsk: European experts assess asteroid options
European Space Agency
8 May 2013

In February, a speeding asteroid slammed into our atmosphere
and exploded high over Russia's Ural region, injuring hundreds and causing
millions of euros of damage. What should we do if we have a similar -
or even bigger - strike in the future?

Of the more than 600 000 known asteroids in our Solar System, almost 10 000
are classified as near-Earth objects, or NEOs, because their orbits bring
them relatively close to Earth's path.

Dramatic proof that any of these can strike Earth came on 15 February, when
an unknown object thought to be 17-20 m in diameter arrived at 66 000 km/h
and exploded high above Chelyabinsk, Russia, with 20-30 times the energy of
the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

The resulting shock wave caused widespread damage and injuries, making it
the largest known natural object to have entered the atmosphere since the
1908 Tunguska event, which destroyed a remote forest area of Siberia.

"It's important that we become aware of the current and future position of NEOs,
develop estimates on the likelihood of impacts and assess the possible
consequences," says Detlef Koschny, Head of NEO activities in the Agency's Space
Situational Awareness (SSA) Programme Office.

"More importantly, we must consider whether and how warning, mitigation and
possible deflection actions can be taken. It's important not only for Europe, but
for the rest of the planet, too."

One aspect of ESA's four-year-old effort requires the development of an
integrated system to scan the sky nightly for as-yet-undiscovered NEOs.

Another important element is studying how mitigation measures can be applied in
the case of smaller NEOs, and how to deflect any larger ones that may seriously
threaten our home planet.

This week, Deimos Space, an industrial partner working for ESA on SSA, has
invited top researchers from universities, research institutes, national space
agencies and industry in Europe and the USA to discuss the state of the art in NEO
impact effects and threat mitigation.

The meeting is taking place in Tres Cantos, Spain, near Madrid.

"A great deal of work remains to be done, for example, in computer modelling of
impact effects, how airbursts differ from ground strikes, kinetic versus explosive
deflection strategies and much more," says Gerhard Drolshagen, of the SSA Programme

"The aim is to develop plans that will guide us in current and future NEO research
and development."

Ultimately, ESA aims to develop the capability to integrate European current and new
assets such as automated telescopes into a coordinated and more efficient NEO system
that can provide nightly sky surveys and advanced warning.

"With this, we can work with our partner agencies, scientists, industry and
international bodies like the UN to offer firm options to national governments and
political decision-makers," says Nicolas Bobrinsky, Head of ESA's SSA Programme.

"Events like the Chelyabinsk strike show that the NEO hazard is not just theoretical,
and we need to invest in practical measures today to address tomorrow's threats."

Editor's note: A summary of the workshop findings will be available as a downloadable
PDF after 8 May.
Received on Wed 08 May 2013 03:55:37 PM PDT

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