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.

09 November 2010

Paper on Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS)

New paper on on the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) from John Tonry from the University of Hawaii.

Title: An Early Warning System for Asteroid Impact
Author: John L. Tonry

(Submitted on 3 Nov 2010)

Abstract: Earth is bombarded by meteors, occasionally by one large enough to cause a significant explosion and possible loss of life. Although the odds of a deadly asteroid strike in the next century are low, the most likely impact is by a relatively small asteroid, and we suggest that the best mitigation strategy in the near term is simply to move people out of the way. We describe an "early warning" system that could provide a week's notice of most sizable asteroids or comets on track to hit the Earth. This system, dubbed "Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System" (ATLAS), comprises two observatories separated by about 100km that simultaneously scan the visible sky twice a night, and can be implemented immediately for relatively low cost. The sensitivity of ATLAS permits detection of 140m asteroids (100 Mton impact energy) three weeks before impact, and 50m asteroids a week before arrival. An ATLAS alarm, augmented by other observations, should result in a determination of impact location and time that is accurate to a few kilometers and a few seconds. In addition to detecting and warning of approaching asteroids, ATLAS will continuously monitor the changing universe around us: most of the variable stars in our galaxy, many micro-lensing events from stellar alignments, luminous stars and novae in nearby galaxies, thousands of supernovae, nearly a million quasars and active galactic nuclei, tens of millions of galaxies, and a billion stars. With two views per day ATLAS will make the variable universe as familiar to us as the sunrise and sunset.

Link: Paper on

Link: MIT Technology Review blog post

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