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End Of The World: Comets Pose A Threat To Earth, Too

First Posted: Dec 15, 2016 02:43 AM EST
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It is widely known that asteroids could pose a threat to the Earth in case they collide with it. Now, NASA warns that the planet is woefully unprepared if an asteroid or comet struck it. On the other hand, comets can also deliver chaos and calamity to Earth, scientists from NASA said.

"Comets have largely been ignored by people that are interested in defending the planet," Joseph Nuth, researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said as reported by Space.com.

Mr. Nuth added that scientists and people alike should provide more attention to comets, which could also harm the planet when they collide with each other. During a news conference on Dec. 12 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), one of the main reasons cited is the lack of attention on the threats caused by comets because of the difficulties involved in detecting and tracking these icy bodies.

"The biggest problem, basically, is there's not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment," Mr. Nuth added.

Comets follow distant paths from Earth but sometimes they could get knocked into the neighborhood. In fact, in 1996, the planet had a close encounter with a comet. This happened when a comet flew into Jupiter.

In 2014, this happened again when a comet passed nearby Mars. The latter incident was just detected 22 months after, giving the planet not enough time to prepare and launch a deflection mission, The Guardian reports.

Many scientists have focused more on asteroids. NASA says that potentially hazardous asteroids have less than 0.01 percent chance of striking Earth in the next 100 years. However, comets can approach Earth at unusually high speeds as they depart the Oort Cloud, the sphere of icy cosmos surrounding the farthest parts of the solar system.

But there is still hope. Mr. Nuth recommends that the United States should build two comet-destroying spacecraft ahead of time. One of the spacecraft, the "observe," could be launched as soon as NASA identifies a threat, and the other one, the "interceptor," could dislodge the asteroid or comet from its orbit or blow it up.

However, the recommendation is if someone would listen. "I'm a NASA scientist. I'm not a NASA policymaker. I'm not even in the administration of NASA," Mr. Nuth added, as reported by Atlantic.

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

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