[meteorite-list] Watching For Hazards: ESA Opens Asteroid Centre
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 22 May 2013 16:01:03 -0700 (PDT)
Watching for hazards: ESA opens asteroid centre
European Space Agency
22 May 2013
ESA today inaugurated a new hub that will strengthen Europe's
contribution to the global hunt for asteroids and other hazardous
natural objects that may strike Earth.
Near-Earth Objects, or NEOs, are asteroids or comets with sizes
ranging from metres to tens of kilometres that orbit the Sun and
whose orbits come close to that of Earth. There are over 600 000
asteroids known in our Solar System, and almost 10 000 of them are
Dramatic proof that some of these could strike Earth came on 15
February, when an unknown object thought to be 17-20 m in diameter
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
The NEO Coordination Centre will serve as the central access point
to a network of European NEO data sources and information
providers being established under ESA's Space Situational
Awareness (SSA) Programme.
This is the second centre to be opened under SSA leadership after
the Space Weather Coordination Centre that opened in Brussels last
Located at ESRIN, ESA's centre for Earth observation, the centre
was formally inaugurated today by Thomas Reiter, ESA Director of
Human Spaceflight and Operations, together with Augusto
Cramarossa, Italian Delegate to the ESA Council, and Claudio
Portelli, Italian Delegate to the SSA Programme, both of ASI, the
Italian space agency.
The event was hosted by Volker Liebig, ESA Director of Earth
Observation Programmes and Head of the ESRIN Establishment.
Europe's first operational NEO centre
The new centre will support experts in the field by federating new
and existing European assets, systems and sensors into a future
NEO system. It will support the integration and initial operation
of ESA's NEO information distribution network.
The Centre is also the focus point for scientific studies needed
to improve NEO warning services and provide near-realtime data to
European and international customers, including scientific bodies,
international organisations and decision-makers.
Multiple centres of European NEO expertise
Of the 14 ESA Member States participating in SSA, nine are
supporting NEO activities, including Belgium, the Czech Republic,
Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Switzerland in
addition to Italy.
"I am pleased to see strong support for the NEO segment of ESA's
SSA Programme by Italian industry and academia," said Claudio
Portelli, Italy's representative to the programme from ASI.
"Enhancing Europe's contribution to international NEO discovery
efforts is only possible through the coordinated efforts of
multiple centres of European expertise."
Networking today's NEO infrastructure
The NEO-CC itself is a dedicated control room where operators
monitor and continuously update observations from professional and
amateur teams across Europe.
It provides an interface to the Minor Planet Center, the global
clearing house for NEO observations operated by the International
Astronomical Union at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in
The Centre is networked with the EARN Near-Earth Asteroids
database developed by the DLR German Aerospace Center in Berlin
and the NEODyS Near-Earth Objects Dynamic Site database operated
by Space Dynamics Services S.r.l. at the University of Pisa.
This last activity is supported by ESA and the Institute for Space
Astrophysics and Planetology (IAPS), an institute of the Italian
National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).
The Centre also incorporates the IAPS/INAF 'Spaceguard Central
Node Priority List', a listing of discovered objects whose orbits
merit further confirmation.
The Centre was established and built by an industrial team led by
Telespazio S.p.A. Ten European industrial partners and
organisations from Italy, Spain and Germany are participating in
the Centre's development and operation.
Received on Wed 22 May 2013 07:01:03 PM PDT