London: Lasers powered by sun could protect Earth from any threatening-looking asteroids by destroying them before they can get too close, U.S. researchers have suggested.
Academics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, have outlined a plan for solar powered space defences, which could vaporise an asteroid as big as the one which flew past Earth on Friday night in 60 minutes, the Daily Mail reported.
The same system could destroy asteroids 10 times larger in about a year, with evaporation starting at a distance as far away as the Sun, the researchers claimed.
The scientists say their concept, dubbed Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids an exploRation, or DE-STAR, is `a realistic means of mitigating potential threats posed to the Earth by asteroids and comets.`
Described as a `directed energy orbital defence system`, DE-STAR is designed to harness the vast power of the Sun and convert it into a massive phased array of laser beams, which can be aimed at any threatening-looking asteroids.
"This system is not some far-out idea from Star Trek. All the components of this system pretty much exist today. Maybe not quite at the scale that we`d need - scaling up would be the challenge - but the basic elements are all there and ready to go," said Gary Hughes, a professor at Cal Poly, who contributed to the research.
"We just need to put them into a larger system to be effective, and once the system is there, it can do so many things," he added.
Aside from vaporising extinction-level event size asteroids, the DE-STAR system has a number of other potential uses - even as a spaceship propulsion system, the researchers added.