Earth totally unprepared for asteroid impact, no planetary defence measures in place: Scientist

By @ritwikroy1985 on
ESA
The European Space Agency (ESA) logo is pictured in the main control room of the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany June 17, 2016. Reuters/Ralph Orlowski

The Earth could be hit by an asteroid, which could spell the end of humanity. Head of the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany Rolf Densing said that the planet would "sooner or later" be hit by space rocks.

Earth has been hit by space rocks repeatedly in its 4.5 billion years of existence. Hence, it is crucial to find out when the planet will take the next hit. Scientists are trying to predict and intercept its arrival. It may not happen in this lifetime, but the risk of a devastating event is high, Densing said, adding that the world is ill-equipped to handle such incident. There is apparently no active planetary defence measure in place, and humans are not in any way ready to defend themselves against Earth-bound objects from outer space.

In December 2016, European ministers refused to fund a project to crash a probe into a small space rock to alter its trajectory. Tactics of dealing with this type of rock include using lasers to vaporise it, nuking the asteroid or sending a space tractor to drag it off course. However, dealing with an asteroid is only the second step. The first is spotting the threat itself.

Scientists who monitor risks from space rocks have classified the objects into various sizes, ranging from a few millimetres to more than 10 kilometres long. Such a behemoth may have been responsible for wiping out the non-avian dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Every day, small rocks from space enter Earth’s atmosphere burning up as shooting stars. Europe will soon have a network of telescopes that will systematically scan the skies every night, warning about incoming impact two to three weeks ahead.

“Now that we have discovered most of the (asteroids) that are about a kilometre in size and larger, the goal is to discover most of the ones which are (up to) about 140m. This is the threshold — if an object of this size impacts the Earth — for regional damage at the scale of a country or a continent,” France’s CNRS research institute astrophysicist Patrick Michel told News.com.au.

The warning time may not be much, though something is better than nothing. At least cities could be evacuated, and a shockwave warning can be issued. Stay tuned on IBT AU for more updates on developments in asteroid spotting. [In Case You Missed: Breakthrough discovery: Supermassive black holes orbiting each other due to merging of galaxies; Insights into evolution of galaxies]