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Orbits: Comet/Asteroid/Meteor Close Encounters, Near Misses and Impacts

19 May 2009, 11:33 UTC
Orbits: Comet/Asteroid/Meteor Close Encounters, Near Misses and Impacts
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People are fascinated by the prospect of near misses and impacts by asteroids, comets, and meteors. A few decades ago there was almost no awareness of the potential risks. As automated search telescopes like LINEAR and the Catalina Sky Survey are being used to study the risk, the public is becoming more aware of the numbers of near misses and the potential danger. There is also a great deal of work being done on how to change the course of potential impactors.This article will use the NASA JPL orbit simulator to illustrate some of these. If you don't know about the simulator, please read Orbits: Intro to NASA's Orbit Simulator - solar system small body tour.Before we start, I should put the risk into perspective. For anyone who isn't aware of it the automated searches are happening because the US government realized the long term risk of an impact with something large from space was something they could and should investigate. To date, these studies have identified over a thousand objects to keep our eyes on in their search for potentially hazardous objects. Most of these are too small to cause critical or even major damage. Many of the orbits ...

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