Early asteroid detection system would have resulted in a week of headlines in 2008

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Space.com has an article here today about a proposed asteroid detection system called ATLAS that is both cheap and effective, involving simply using two observatories separated by a distance of 100 km, which are then able to use parallax when comparing their results in order to more easily find asteroids, which are otherwise identified by their movement across the sky compared to the stars which are more or less fixed in place in relation to each other (unless you happen to live centuries or millennia instead of decades).

The search range for such a system: around 4 million km. The article also references the asteroid 2008 TC3, which was that asteroid a few metres in diameter that broke up over Sudan, and the first asteroid hit that we knew about beforehand. What was too bad about that asteroid though was that we only found out about it a few hours in advance, which is enough for astronomers to have an easier time tracking the fragments, but unfortunately not enough time to make headlines. Had we had the ATLAS system in place at the time the asteroid would have been detected some three or four days before it hit instead of just a few hours, and that would have been a great way to make asteroids and space in general the subject of the week. For a glorious three days, instead of having to search through science and astronomy news sites and blogs for the news the public would get it straight from here:

and since nothing drives public opinion like fear and awe (even if it's just a few metres in diameter), that could only be good for space as a whole.

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