Artist’s impression on an asteroid impact with the Earth
In the past five weeks two asteroids have passed close by Earth, at distances of 1.2 and 3 times the distance to the Moon. Another asteroid has recently been shown to be on course for a collision with Earth in 2880.
Monitoring known asteroids allows astronomers to predict which may collide with Earth. But that is only true for the asteroids we know of. What about those that lie in the asteroid blind spot between the Sun and Earth? The European Space Agency is studying ways in which its missions can assist in monitoring these unseen but potentially hazardous asteroids.
It is difficult to estimate the danger posed by asteroids. This is, in part, because astronomers do not yet know how many asteroids there are. A recent discovery, made using data from ESA`s Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), showed that there could be nearly two million asteroids larger than one kilometre in the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. That is more than twice as many as previously thought.
Monica Talevi | alphagalileo
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