Astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons, from the Queen's University in Belfast, Ireland, has warned that an asteroid will strike planet Earth in just a matter of time.
Asteroid Likely To Hit Earth
The scientist issued the warning ahead of Asteroid Day on June 30, which was set to remember the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia, when an explosion believed to have been caused by a small asteroid damaged hundreds of miles of forest and knocked down about 80 million trees.
Fitzsimmons said that a potentially more dangerous asteroid may strike Earth and destroy a city. The scientist thinks that our planet is vulnerable to an asteroid strike and that the issue is not really about whether or not an asteroid will hit Earth, but when this event would happen.
Fitzsimmons noted the importance of Earth being prepared for an asteroid impact and the possibility that another dangerous space rock could take humanity by surprise.
"It is important to know that scientists and engineers have made great strides in detecting Near-Earth Asteroids and understanding the threat posed by them. Over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects have been discovered so far, but there are many more waiting to be found," Fitzsimmons said.
Preventing Or Minimizing The Impact Of Space Rock Collision
Scientists believe that early detection is crucial to keeping the planet safe from threats of near-Earth objects, or NEOs, such as asteroids.
The ability to identify objects from space that can potentially cause catastrophic events on Earth can make a big difference in mitigating or preventing damages. Once scientists detect NEOs, the objects' orbits are predicted and monitored to determine if they pose danger.
Several ideas are in place to protect the planet from space rocks that are on a collision course to Earth.
A gravity tractor can use the force of gravity to slowly change the trajectory of an object in space. The problem with this technology is that it may not be effective for large asteroids, which happen to pose the greatest threat if they collide with Earth. Scientists also consider taking advantage of the Yarkovsky effect to change the orbit of a space rock by about 100 miles over a time period.
NASA and the the European Space Agency will also launch the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment Mission by the year 2020. The mission will blast a kinetic impactor to the Didymos asteroid. The goal of this mission is to see how well the space agencies can strike an asteroid off-course through impact with a spacecraft. The deflection caused by the impact will then be measured and characterized to fine-tune strategies for dealing with dangerous asteroids.
Last year, the U.S. space agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted an asteroid impact exercise. The participants tackled the things that need to be done in case an asteroid strikes.
"These exercises are invaluable for those of us in the asteroid science community responsible for engaging with FEMA on this natural hazard," said NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson. "We receive valuable feedback from emergency managers at these exercises about what information is critical for their decision making, and we take that into account when we exercise how we would provide information to FEMA about a predicted impact."