IT, Google to play big roles in hunt for killer asteroids hiding in Earth's blind spot

Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau has a report on how Apophis, an asteroid that currently has a 1-in-45,000 chance at hitting Earth, isn't the only killer rock in the heavens and how the hunt to identify others is underway. Apparently, for most scientists, a 1-in-45K chance (odds that Thibodeau say are likely to improve in Earth's favor) is too close for comfort.

Computerworld's Patrick Thibodeau has a report on how Apophis, an asteroid that currently has a 1-in-45,000 chance at hitting Earth, isn't the only killer rock in the heavens and how the hunt to identify others is underway. Apparently, for most scientists, a 1-in-45K chance (odds that Thibodeau say are likely to improve in Earth's favor) is too close for comfort. Not only that, Apophis was only discovered a few years ago and one of the reasons for its late discovery is that it hides in what I could best summarize as our blind spot. The way things work out, Apophis spends most of its time on the sunny side of Earth. The problem according to scientists? Apophis can't be the only one. 

So, now, the hunt is on for the others and according to the report, IT will be playing an important role:

there's an effort called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), involving 20 universities and national labs to build a large telescope on a 8,800-foot mountain peak in northern Chile, called Cerro Pachon. This telescope will have the potential of finding asteroids as small as 100 meters.

Once it begins operation in 2013, the LSST is expected to generate 30,000 gigabytes of data per night. In total, petabytes (1 petabyte equals 1 million gigabytes) of data will be created in what may well become the world's largest database. The project is expected to cost about $467 million, said Donald Sweeney, LSST project manager.

Google joined the effort last month. "They are going to help us with how the data is served and indexed -- how do you find stuff in petabytes of data," Sweeney said.

There was no word on whether Bruce Willis would be leading a team of misfits to land on Apophis and blow it up with some nuclear bombs.

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