This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

25 March 2010

Article on Arecibo Funding Issues for NEO Radar Research

Selection from the article...

Radar measurements set to be made in January 2013 by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, US, could help rule out an impact by asteroid Apophis.

But the cuts mean Arecibo needs an extra $2m-$3m a year to continue.

If not, the observations planned for 2011-2013 will have to be abandoned, the facility's director told BBC News.

Dr Michael Nolan said he was "moderately optimistic" that the money could be found.

Although asteroid 99942 Apophis is one of the most hazardous Neos today, the calculated probability of an impact is small.

Last year, the US space agency (Nasa) lowered the chances of an impact on 13 April 2036 from one in 45,000 to one in 250,000.

The 300m-wide asteroid raised concerns in December 2004, when initial observations indicated a probability of up to 2.7% that it would strike Earth in 2029.

Additional measurements ruled out this possibility, but on 13 April 2029, Apophis will approach Earth at a distance no closer than 29,470 km (18,300 miles).

But the US National Science Foundation (NSF), which operates the facility, has indicated it will substantially cut funding starting from 2011, when the telescope will receive an overall budget of $9m.

In its latest budget request, Nasa has set aside money both for Arecibo and for research on Neos like Apophis. If the space agency picked up the difference - estimated to be on the order of $2m-$3m per year - the project would be able to continue.

In 2011, Apophis will start to become visible again to optical telescopes and it will make a relatively close flyby in January 2013 - passing by Earth at a distance of 13 million kilometres - which would enable measurements by Arecibo's radar.

"Cuts cast doubt on asteroid plan"
Paul Rincon
Science Reporter, BBC News
25 March 2010

Link: BBC News Article

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