Our planet is under constant threat from to the large number of asteroids and comets that travel through space, which may hit us at some point during their voyage, although there are considerably few that represent a true menace.
However, due to this constant danger, NASA, through the mission NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) went to work to determine which are the objects that might really collide with our planet. An asteroid of a significant size could cause massive material damage and even extinction.
At first, NEOWISE was dedicated to study and catalog all possible asteroids and comets, and after four years of extensive research there were a total of 29,375 objects within our solar system, of which 788 are in close proximity to Earth and 136 are comets.
These asteroids and comets that are relatively close receive the name of NEOs and have approached little by little to Earth’s orbit due to the attraction of the gravitational fields of the other planets of our Solar System.
Of all these objects that were discovered by the satellite over the last few years, a total of 10 were cataloged as potentially dangerous asteroids, due to their size, trajectory and proximity.
However, this information does not mean that life on Earth is in danger, but is used to better understand the behavior, structure and physical properties of these objects to avoid a possible impact with our planet.
Through almost 2.5 million infrared images, NASA has managed to build a map where the trajectories of the most relevant objects are recorded. In the near future this knowledge might contribute to the missions that the agency will carry out in outer space.
“NEOWISE continues to expand our catalog and knowledge of these elusive and important objects,” said Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “In total, NEOWISE has now characterized sizes and reflectivities of over 1,300 near-Earth objects since the spacecraft was launched, offering an invaluable resource for understanding the physical properties of this population, and studying what they are made of and where they have come from,” she added.
The NEOWISE program is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.