Three November 6 studies, one in the journal Science and two in Nature, find that more of these smaller, potentially hazardous asteroids in Earth's vicinity could hit the planet 10 times more often than previous research indicates. The studies stem from analyses of the meteor impact in Russia in February.
"Any one of these taken separately I think you can dismiss as a one-off. But now when we look at it as a whole, over a hundred years, we see these large impactors more frequently than we would expect." says Professor Peter Brown of Western University in London, Ontario.
Brown, a coauthor of an asteroid study in Nature, came to this conclusion after compiling decades of data on small asteroid-to-Earth collisions.
In February, on the same day that an asteroid passed close to Earth and a meteor flared over Russia, injuring more than 1,200. The Vienna-based UN Office for Outer Space Affairs said it had nearly completed a 12-year effort to create an emergency plan for dealing with such threats from space.
The UN General Assembly in late October approved a plan to create an International Asteroid Warning Network made of space agencies, scientists and observatories around the world in order to share information and coordinate response efforts arising from an asteroid threat.
The UN agreed that its existing Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space would monitor threats and plan deflection campaigns if necessary. The measures stem from recommendations made in a 2009 report by the Association of Space Explorers, a society of former astronauts.
"If something goes wrong in the middle of the deflection, you have now caused havoc in some other nation that was not at risk. And, therefore, this decision of what to do, how to do it, and what systems to use have to be coordinated internationally. That's why we took this to the United Nations." says Russell Schweickart, former NASA astronaut.
The move by the UN in October was seen as the first step in creating a true global response to an asteroid threat. Advocates next want national governments to create disaster response plans and space agencies to test deflection options.
The joint European/U.S. Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission (AIDA) will try to deflect a near-Earth asteroid called Didymos in 2022, when it's about 6.8 million miles from Earth, officials announced in February. The action will be an experiment; Didymos poses no foreseeable threat to Earth.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told a congressional committee in March that a congressional mandate to catalog 90% of near-Earth objects between 140 meters and 1-kilometer in width will take until 2030, 10 years after the deadline set by Congress.
In late May, a 1.7-mile-wide asteroid passed by Earth at a distance of 3.7 million miles. Astronomers, using radar telescopes, found that the asteroid is in fact a "binary" body, with a 2,000 foot wide "moon" in its orbit.
The information in this article is courtesy of circa.