Scientists assess likelihood of Earth-impacting comets

NEOShield, a project that brings together experts from across Europe, Russia and the US, decides what to do should a comet or asteroid hit the Earth.
Written by Sarah Korones, Contributor

Every few years Hollywood filmmakers pop out another movie focused on the impending doom of a comet about to hit the Earth.  The films may be fun to watch but are the threats they describe actually real?  Scientists say yes.

According to geological and observational records, the chance of a Near Earth Object (NEO) hitting our planet is entirely possible.

Now, a new international project called NEOShield will assess the likelihood of Earth’s collision with a deadly asteroid or comet and decide what to do about it should the event occur. Led by the German space agency’s (DLR) Institute of Planetary Research, the project began last week and will involve researchers from across Europe, Russia and the US.

According to Jonathan Amos of the BBC, an object around the size of a car enters the Earth’s atmosphere about once a year. An object the size of a football field enters the Earth’s atmosphere about every 2,000 years and every few million years, a rock enters the Earth’s atmosphere that could cause truly catastrophic damage. While over 90 percent of these rocks have been identified and do not appear to be coming near the Earth, scientists will focus their efforts on investigating the other 10 percent and researching methods to deflect or lessen the effects of such an impact.

At the end of the three and a half year study, NEOShield scientists are hoping to propose their findings to politicians and launch a mission to demonstrate the appropriate technology, saving us from any scenarios reminiscent of Armageddon or Deep Impact.

Image: ESA

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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