NASA's new asteroid impact monitoring system: online all the updated statistics on potentially dangerous near-Earth bodies.
To date about 28,000 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered, that is, asteroids whose orbit is particularly close to that of the Earth. Some of these celestial objects are considered a potential danger to our planet because they intersect the Earth's orbit, finding themselves crossing, before or after us, the same point in space.
NASA has been engaged for years in the monitoring of potentially dangerous asteroids for the Earth, but the new appearance of CNEOS - Center for Near Earth Object Studies is beyond expectations.
CNEOS: all about asteroids, online
Linking to the website of the brand new Asteroid Impact Monitoring System, developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, you can view dozens of charts and tables that illustrate the probability of impact - past and future - of each near-Earth object.
Available to users are also interesting statistics on the size of individual NEAs, such as those on the average size of celestial bodies orbiting the Earth and those on the number of NEAs discovered each year since 1995.
The centerpiece of the CNEOS project, however, is Sentry II, the evolution of the old Sentry software that since 2002 has been predicting the probability of possible impacts with "minor" celestial objects.
The new Sentry, online since a few days, is a monitoring system that automatically scans the entire catalog of potentially dangerous asteroids to calculate the probability of impact with the Earth for the next 100 years.
We can therefore easily discover that Bennu could give rise, between 2178 and 2290, to 157 potential impacts with our planet, while the less known asteroid 2000 SG344 has 330 potential dramatic impacts with the Earth between 2069 and 2121.
As specified by JPL, these are just predictions that can be modified according to the results of new observations, which is why there is a special section on the site dedicated to the objects removed from the list of potentially dangerous asteroids.
The new Sentry
The latest generation telescopes discover about 3000 new asteroids each year, and it is safe to believe that with the evolution of the instruments this number will grow in the near future. Therefore, NASA's monitoring system, supporting the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, has been adapted to the growing need for evaluation and study of data.
Unlike what you may believe, asteroids are not crazy bodies wandering randomly around the Solar System: their orbits around the Sun are (almost) perfectly predictable, and an algorithm can with good approximation calculate the potential risk of impact.
The new Sentry presents some important evolutions with respect to the first software: it is able to automatically manage the Yarkovsky effect, a particular dynamic linked to the rotation of the asteroids on themselves that can influence their final trajectory, and it is able to finally calculate the orbit of those objects that are so close to the Earth to be influenced by the Earth's gravitational force.
"The first version of Sentry," says Javier Roa Vicens, who led its development, "was a very good system, operational for almost twenty years: in less than an hour you could get the probability of impact in the next 100 years of a newly discovered asteroid." Sentry II, the software behind the most advanced monitoring system ever developed by NASA, will also allow the detection of those potential impacts that have a 1 in 10 million chance of occurring.