NASA’s ‘Intruder Alert’ System Warns Earthlings Of Asteroid Crashes

First Posted: Nov 01, 2016 04:52 AM EDT

Science fiction movies depict asteroid crashes as planetary life-changing events that are horrific at its best, and for good reason: after all, many still believe that it was an asteroid that wiped out the last of the dinosaurs.

However, having an actual asteroid smashing into Earth is unlikely to happen suddenly - today's technology ensures that we would get at least some warning if an asteroid ever comes close to orbit, thanks to NASA's Scout computer program that watches out for potentially dangerous space rocks.

Not that we would have years of warning: a rock was spotted just last week, giving us a five-day warning as it went whizzing by Earth on Sunday night at a distance of 310,000 miles, according to NASA. While the five-day warning does not seem too impressive, it's a whole lot more than the warnings we used to have.

Paul Chodas, the manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Proplusion Laboratory in California told that "These are objects that observers have reported, and they suspect them to be asteroids."

According to USA Today, NASA identified 15,000 near-Earth objects, which are said to be remnants of debris from the solar system when it formed about 4.6 billion years ago. From these objects, over 1,700 were classified as "potentially hazardous" asteroids - especially those that can zoom by for as close as 4 million miles. While these asteroids are not likely to impact the Earth, NASA noted that there is a possibility of such a threat.

Scout is currently looking for small objects, but it is working as a complement to Sentry, another NASA program that had been around since 2002 - and looks for larger objects that could potentially wipe out large cities. For other pending impacts, NASA had other contacts like FEMA and other agencies to help prepare for upcoming disasters.

Chodas shared, "The key thing is to have a system that alerts us and alerts the observers."

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