Scientists Urge Action On Asteroids That Could Threaten Earth - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Scientists Urge Action On Asteroids That Could Threaten Earth

Posted: Updated:

YAHOO.COM - At the current rate that near-Earth asteroids are being detected, it will take astronomers 15 years to identify every one of significant size and even more than 10 times longer to characterize their materials, a new study suggests.

Astronomers should dramatically ramp up the sky surveys, not only to better prepare for threats to Earth but also to exploit asteroids' contents, scientists say.

These asteroids could be mined one day for valuable metals such as platinum and cobalt, yet at the current rate it will take 190 years to characterize their materials, Charlie Beeson, a doctoral candidate in astronomy at Harvard University, told an audience last month at the 221st annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.

Increasing the breadth of existing sky surveys and using an orbiting mission to search for asteroids could speed up the cosmic hunt, Beeson said.

Danger and opportunity

Like the moon, Earth is pockmarked with craters caused by asteroid impacts, suggesting that such strikes happen frighteningly often, Beeson told SPACE.com.

For instance, during the Tunguska event in 1908 in Siberia, up to 80 million trees were wiped out in a mostly uninhabited 830-square-mile area (2,150 square kilometers) by an exploding space rock. The meteorite blast packed up to 1,000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, Beeson said.

But asteroids aren't just potential threats to Earth's safety, they are also potential  sources of rich veins of platinum, cobalt, zinc, antimony and other valuable metals that might one day be harvested by manned missions. They could even be mined for hydrogen and oxygen for space travelers refueling their rockets, Beeson said. [Deep Space Industries' Asteroid-Mining Vision (Gallery)]

Scientists have estimated that 20,000 asteroids lurk in the solar system, of which only 6,000 have been identified, Beeson said.

Slow process

Beeson and her colleagues looked at the historical rate of asteroid discovery and found that, at the current pace, it will take about 15 years to identify all the asteroids in the solar system that are wider than 100 meters (328 feet).

Most of the missing asteroids are traveling by during the daytime or traveling through a patch of the sky not watched by existing surveys, she found.

To speed discovery, the team should expand the patch of sky observed by two programs, the Mount Lemmon and Catalina sky surveys, she said. To find asteroids that are crossing by Earth only during the day, scientists should prioritize the B612 Sentinel mission, which aims to send a telescope into a Venus-like orbit around the sun, Beeson added.

"Venus travels quite a bit faster, so it would scan the sky a lot quicker."

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Stolen bike didn't roll away unnoticed

    Stolen bike didn't roll away unnoticed

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 10:31 AM EDT2014-08-20 14:31:01 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - When Paul Dannels finished his workout at the Downtown YMCA, he was surprised to see his bike was gone from the bike rack. "I was pretty upset, to be honest...mad, and discouraged, and depressed because I knew I couldn't replace it," said Dannels. A reporter for The Inlander happened to be at the YMCA when the bike was stolen.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - When Paul Dannels finished his workout at the Downtown YMCA, he was surprised to see his bike was gone from the bike rack. "I was pretty upset, to be honest...mad, and discouraged, and depressed because I knew I couldn't replace it," said Dannels. A reporter for The Inlander happened to be at the YMCA when the bike was stolen.
    >>
  • Another American hostage at risk by Islamic State after U.S. journalist beheaded

    Another American hostage at risk by Islamic State after U.S. journalist beheaded

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 10:15 AM EDT2014-08-20 14:15:08 GMT
    WASHINGTON (AP) - Militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded American journalist James Foley and are threatening to kill another hostage in retaliation for U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq. The White House must now weigh the risks of adopting an aggressive policy to destroy the Islamic State against resisting any action that could result in the death of another American.>>
    WASHINGTON (AP) - Militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded American journalist James Foley and are threatening to kill another hostage in retaliation for U.S. air strikes in northern Iraq. The White House must now weigh the risks of adopting an aggressive policy to destroy the Islamic State against resisting any action that could result in the death of another American.>>
  • HEALTH ALERT: Peanut butter recall for salmonella

    HEALTH ALERT: Peanut butter recall for salmonella

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 9:50 AM EDT2014-08-20 13:50:34 GMT
    KHQ.COM - The FDA announced a peanut butter recall on August 19th. nSpired Natural Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling certain retail lots of Arrowhead Mills® Peanut Butters, MaraNatha® Almond Butters and Peanut Butters and specific private label nut butters packaged in glass and plastic jars because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. >>>LINK TO RECALL LIST INSIDE>>>>>
    KHQ.COM - The FDA announced a peanut butter recall on August 19th. nSpired Natural Foods, Inc. is voluntarily recalling certain retail lots of Arrowhead Mills® Peanut Butters, MaraNatha® Almond Butters and Peanut Butters and specific private label nut butters packaged in glass and plastic jars because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. >>>LINK TO RECALL LIST INSIDE>>>
    >>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • PENTAGON CONFIRMS: Foley rescue attempt failed earlier this summer

    PENTAGON CONFIRMS: Foley rescue attempt failed earlier this summer

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 11:16 PM EDT2014-08-21 03:16:50 GMT
    WASHINGTON, D.C.- Wednesday afternoon the Pentagon released information about a rescue operation to free James Foley and other U.S. hostages held in Syria by Islamist militants. Several dozen troops flew in by helicopter, but couldn't find the hostages. One of those hostages was James Foley.>>
    WASHINGTON, D.C.- Wednesday afternoon the Pentagon released information about a rescue operation to free James Foley and other U.S. hostages held in Syria by Islamist militants. Several dozen troops flew in by helicopter, but couldn't find the hostages. One of those hostages was James Foley.>>
  • Spokane Police work to implement body cameras

    Spokane Police work to implement body cameras

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 10:23 PM EDT2014-08-21 02:23:21 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Police Department plans to equip 15 to 20 officers with body cameras starting the first week of September. Police Chief Frank Straub says his team still has a lot of details to work out, but that this is something that has been on their radar for quite some time.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Police Department plans to equip 15 to 20 officers with body cameras starting the first week of September. Police Chief Frank Straub says his team still has a lot of details to work out, but that this is something that has been on their radar for quite some time.>>
  • Father of Rebecca West speaks about potential release of Michael Tarbert: 'It's been a living hell'

    Father of Rebecca West speaks about potential release of Michael Tarbert: 'It's been a living hell'

    Wednesday, August 20 2014 7:32 PM EDT2014-08-20 23:32:40 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Michael West cannot believe that the man suspected of killing his daughter Rebecca may once again walk the streets of Spokane.“It's very unacceptable to me,” West told KHQ. >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Michael West cannot believe that the man suspected of killing his daughter Rebecca may once again walk the streets of Spokane.“It's very unacceptable to me,” West told KHQ. “A 55-year-old man is able to go home to his family, and my daughter can't come home to her mother. I'm very surprised.” West says his daughter's death destroyed his family. >>