NASA has done a pretty good job until now when it comes to tracking down asteroids that could pose a threat to our beloved planet. But even so, the space agency cannot possibly monitor the entire sky. Unfortunately for all of us, the Universe is way too big.
But yet another problem arises. NASA scientists also warn us that asteroids could approach Earth undetected due to a quirk in our planet’s rotation, according to Daily Mail.
Some space objects could seem as stationary
Back in 2019, an asteroid the size of a football pitch passed by our planet undetected. Astronomers were able to spot it only 24 hours before the closest approach between the object and our planet. This obviously triggered major concerns, and experts led from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa rapidly tried to figure out why the asteroid passed undetected.
What happens is that movement of an object to the east can be perfectly counteracted by the rotation of our planet.
Richard Wainscoat, an astronomer who initiated the new study, explained as quoted by Daily Mail:
Near-Earth Objects that approach from a direction east of opposition — most notably 0–2 hours [0–30°] east of opposition — are prone to periods of slow motion during their approach,
The induced topocentric motion coming from Earth’s rotation cancels the natural eastward motion in the sky, making the object appear to be almost stationary.
He also added:
Surveys should take extra care when surveying the sky in this direction, and aggressively follow-up new slow-moving objects.
Since Earth was hit by devastating asteroids before, many scientists believe that it’s only a matter of time until it will happen again. The dinosaurs got extinct after the impact with Chicxulub, a huge asteroid that left behind a crater of over 25,000 square kilometers.
Let’s all hope that if such an impact is about to occur again one day, humanity will have the right technology to be able to tackle it successfully!