UN COPUOS Urges International Network to Track Asteroids

Asteroid Ida
Asteroid Ida

Space News is reporting the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space  (UN COPUOS) is calling for the development of an international network of ground-based telescope to to track potentially dangerous asteroids and other objects.

The NEO study group recommended coordinating investments already made or under way in ground telescopes and the occasional satellite and sending the NEO data to a central clearinghouse, which would then forward them to national space and civil protection agencies as needed. The study group was chaired by Sergio Camacho, secretary general of the Regional Center for Space Science and Technology Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is based in Mexico….

To date, the de facto global clearinghouse for NEO data is the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., part of the U.S. Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Timothy Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center, told the U.N. meeting in February that the facility is “the world’s center for receiving and distributing asteroid data” and should be key to any U.N. effort to create an International Asteroid Warning Network — one of the proposals of the U.N. expert group.

Spahr said the center maintains a catalog of some 750,000 asteroids, including 10,000 NEOs. He said the facility, equipped with a supercomputer, has the capacity to handle 10 times more data than it currently manages.

Spahr said the greatest need for a global NEO alert system is a network of telescopes to pinpoint “small, imminent impactors” such as the one that created the shockwave over Chelyabinsk.

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