New NAS Report Recommends NASA Build Space-Based Infrared Telescopes to Detect Near-Earth Asteroids

Asteroid Ryugu with north polar boulder (Credit: JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu and AIST)

WASHINGTON (NAS PR) — The likelihood of a large asteroid hitting Earth in any given year, or even over one’s lifetime, is very small. However, the consequences of such a strike would be great. Detecting near-Earth objects (NEOs), determining their orbits, and estimating their mass is critical knowledge necessary to quantify their destructive potential.

A new report titled, Finding Hazardous Asteroids Using Infrared and Visible Wavelength Telescopes , from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of telescope capabilities in detecting NEOs and says that space-based infrared NEO survey telescopes are more effective than visible wavelength telescopes, provide diameter information that visible wavelength telescopes cannot provide, and do not cost significantly more than in-space visible wavelength telescopes.

The report also says that if NASA develops a space-based infrared NEO survey telescope, it should also continue to fund both short- and long-term ground-based observations to refine estimates of the orbits and physical properties of NEOs, which helps to assess the risk they might pose to Earth.