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`Armageddon-style` protocol needed to save earth from asteroids

Last Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 16:48

London: Space experts have expressed the need for more extensive monitoring systems and an Armageddon-style protocol to save our planet from a potentially hazardous asteroid, which is expected to fly by earth in 2029.

In the Hollywood blockbuster “Armageddon”, Bruce Willis and his co-stars are given just 18 days to destroy a vast asteroid, which threatens to wipe out life on Earth.

Now, scientists said that the world must come up with a similar emergency plan after an asteroid whistled within a whisker of the Earth on Tuesday, only two days after it was first detected by astronomers.

They claimed that an enormous asteroid measuring 300m across is expected to make an even closer pass in 2029.

The Apophis asteroid, first detected in 2004, will come within 22,000 miles (36,000km) of Earth when it passes by – nearer to the Earth than television satellites and so close it can be seen with the naked eye as a burning point in the sky.

Although there is no chance of the asteroid colliding with Earth when it passes by on Friday, April 13 of that year, there is an extremely small chance it could fall into a gravitational loop and come back to hit the planet in 2038, scientists claimed.

Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the possible impact of asteroids measuring less than 1km across, which are not typically picked up by surveying programmes and could only be detected at very short notice.

In February, delegates from across the world will gather at the United Nations to come up with a framework for earlier detection of asteroids, and a plan of action if a collision is deemed possible.

“The theory is that if you can see it soon enough, you can deal with it. What we want to avoid is dealing with something that is only a couple of years away from impact – not only for technical reasons but also on the policy front,” the telegraph quoted Prof Richard Crowther, chief engineer at the UK Space Agency, as saying.

“Moving an asteroid’s point of impact away from Britain, for example, could potentially move it towards America or Europe like a red laser moving across a map, and as that happens obviously people are going to want to have some say about where it passes,” he stated.

NASA has already announced it intends to land a probe on an asteroid to learn more about what exotic minerals they might carry, but also to learn how to work effectively in a “microgravity” climate.

“We need to understand what these objects are made of and how we might interact with them in the future so that if we do get the ‘Armageddon’ scenario we could place something on the surface [knowing] it would stay there and would be able to impact on the body as a whole, not a small part of it,” Prof Crowther said.


First Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 16:48
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