The syndrome of sudden death: as the Land is prepared to repel an attack from space

© JPL/NASAТак the artist imagined the Deep Impact mission at comet Temple 1The syndrome of sudden death: as the Land is prepared to repel an attack from space© JPL/NASAПодпишись to daily updates RIA Science

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Exactly one hundred ten years ago in Siberia, the Tungus meteorite fell down, destroying a forest the size of Hong Kong. RIA Novosti tells how the mankind nearer to the creation of a global system of planetary defense and the domestication of visitors from outer space.

Today is the Day of the asteroid — the unofficial holiday devoted to the danger posed by the «heavenly stones» for the Earth. 30 June 1908 Tungus meteorite fell down. The idea of the festival belongs to Director Gregory Richters and Brian may, British astrophysics and guitarist of the band Queen.

The anniversary of the Tunguska catastrophe is particularly interesting. First, in 2018, the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Chelyabinsk meteorite.

Second, this week the Japanese probe «Hayabusa-2» has arrived to the asteroid Rugu. His study, as scientists hope, will help clarify the origin of the Solar system and how it formed large and small asteroids.

The magic of small numbers

Astronomers do near-earth asteroids and the danger that is connected with them, for several decades, but the public and politicians interested in this issue only in February 2013, after the cosmic fireworks in the Urals.

Chelyabinsk meteorite clearly showed what the result of a fall from even a relatively small celestial bodies, which, as previously believed people should always burn in the atmosphere and do not pose any threat to human life and economic infrastructure.

Although the guest from outer space collided with the Earth’s surface, exploding in the air, and, fortunately, without human casualties, economic losses, by estimations of the authorities of the Chelyabinsk region exceeded one billion rubles. If the meteorite was several meters more, the amount would have grown to dozens or hundreds of times.

The Terrans had got off with only easy fright, but legislators and officials on both sides of the ocean had to take some measures. Budget asteroid division of NASA has increased three times, and the Russian authorities promised to develop an early warning system of asteroid hazard to the beginning of 2020.

Weak interest in this issue in the past decades is due, on the one hand, the lack of reliable data on how many asteroids located near the earth and what are the chances of their collision with the Earth, on the other — a lack of understanding of what they are associated with threats.

Only two of the asteroid from the list, which includes about two thousand objects were considered relatively dangerous to life on Earth — Apophis (2004 MN4) and Bennu (1999 RQ36) opened in 2004 and 1999.

The probability of their falling in 2029 and in the second half of the next century was estimated to be 2.3% and 0.07% — quite a lot by the standards of astronomy. This is by orders of magnitude greater than the level of risk of all the other near-earth objects. After refinement of the orbits, sizes and shapes of these asteroids have stopped out and lost its status as potential killers of civilization.

Drop the «black Swan»

«Back in 2005, long before the Chelyabinsk meteorite, the U.S. Congress formally asked NASA to begin the search and the «census» of smaller objects with diameters from 140 to 1000 meters. Currently, our catalog includes 19 410 asteroid, about half of which occur in this dangerous range. None of them threatens the Earth, one third of the asteroids are still not known to us,» continues Johnson.

Scientists continue to observe the heavenly bodies, NASA, Roskosmos and ESA are investing more effort and money into the development of ground and space telescopes, early warning systems, and even sent missions to asteroids.

The willingness of governments and scientists to tackle this problem, as noted by the famous Russian planetary scientist Alexander Rodin in an interview with RIA Novosti, associated with a philosophical concept, which he calls «the black Swan», but fans of computer games — «instant death syndrome».

In General terms this refers to a very unlikely event, but with extremely serious catastrophic consequences. Earth’s collision with a large asteroid — it is the «black Swan».

The Tunguska meteorite and the Chelyabinsk «cousin» in this case serve as bad examples that create a false sense of security. By happy coincidence, they inflicted minimal damage to the planet and humanity.

Scientists still can only very roughly predict the consequences of such disasters for one simple reason — there is no full understanding of what it consists of guests from space and how they interact with each other.

«The anniversary of the Tunguska meteorite will continue in August when the probe OSIRIS-REx will arrive at the asteroid Bennu. Those samples that it will return to Earth, will help us to understand how similar objects. A similar problem is already solves Japanese mission «Hayabusa-2″ in which we participate,» notes Johnson.

Tractor, Painter and Kamikaze

In addition to the scientific search and study of asteroids, NASA and other space agencies create an early warning system to detect not yet known to small celestial bodies at the moment when they start to get closer to the Ground.

The development of such a system, as the head of the Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, is one of the three main space priorities for Russia. First one of those, «Watch», may go into space after 2019.

A similar project of NASA, the Scout engineering system, in effect from November 2016. She is now capable of detecting relatively small asteroids, with a diameter of 30 meters, a few days before their closest approach to the Earth using the automated telescopes of the network of PAN-STARRS.The syndrome of sudden death: as the Land is prepared to repel an attack from space© Philip M. LubinУченые propose vaporizing asteroids with the help of phased-array laser

But its capabilities are not limited. Meter asteroid in 2018, LA, burned down in the skies over Africa in early June, showed that at successful coincidence of circumstances, this system will detect even a very small small celestial bodies before their rendezvous with the Moon and Earth.

It keeps the hope that rescue teams have time to prepare for the fall of an asteroid, and space systems protection and space forces try to knock it off course.

© Photo : JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaboratorsАстероид Rugy and unusual mountain on its surfaceThe syndrome of sudden death: as the Land is prepared to repel an attack from space© Photo : JAXA, University of Tokyo & collaboratorsАстероид Rugy and unusual mountain on its surface

«Today we seriously develop projects of three protection systems of the planet, designed for different situations. For example, with the direct threat to Earth we can ship to the asteroid heavy probe and crash into him at high speed, which will cause a celestial body to change the orbit,» says Johnson.

And this, as emphasized by the astronomer, not fiction. Recently, the leadership of NASA has approved plans for the construction of the probe of the DART, which will go to the asteroid Didim in December 2020 and will face one of its halves in October 2022. Shock metal «blanks» weight of 500 pounds, as scientists have calculated, will reduce the speed of the asteroid by 0.4 millimeters per second.

This will change and the position of the moon Didyma, and the nature of the motion of another object in orbit. The results of this experiment, I hope Johnson and his colleagues, will help to evaluate how severe should be similar to the probe-«kamikaze», and whether to equip their nuclear weapons, as proposed by Brent Barbie (Barby Brent) from NASA — one of the authors of the project HAMMER.The syndrome of sudden death: as the Land is prepared to repel an attack from space© Fotolia / Paul FleetЧто to do if your planet is heading asteroid

«If before the collision we have a few decades, then you can use less drastic methods, for example, to send to the asteroid special «tip-truck». The gravitational force between them will speed up or slow down a celestial body, its orbit will change,» says Johnson.

The same role can be played probe-Malyar, paint the asteroid with patterns of white or black. Such repainting, explains the scientist, will strengthen or weaken the heating of the celestial bodies of the solar rays, that will change its speed and will prevent the catastrophe.

«The case of the whole Earth»

Scientists and politicians are increasingly aware that protection of the planet requires the cooperation of all countries. The first project of its kind, an international network to prevent asteroid threat IAWN was created in 2013 by the UN Committee on the peaceful uses of outer space for peaceful purposes.

In addition to NASA and its units, the network includes the European space Agency, National space administration of China, the European southern Observatory and a number of Russian academic institutions — Institute of astronomy, Special astrophysical Observatory, Institute of solar-terrestrial physics Russian Academy of Sciences, and Ural Federal University.

The main task of the IAWN — joining forces for round the clock observations of near-earth space. Almost all the asteroids that are open in the past five years, discovered in the framework of the global programme.

While the lion’s share of these findings have on employees and NASA telescopes, however, the role of international partners in this «business», as said the scientist, is constantly increasing. The syndrome of sudden death: as the Land is prepared to repel an attack from space© NASA / JPL-CaltechЗонд Dawn revealed the secret of «eternal youth» asteroid Vesta — scientists

For example, in the observations now regularly participate metre and two-metre telescopes of the Crimean and of the Special astrophysical Observatory in Nizhniy Arkhyz. Their large size and sensitivity allow to identify the relatively small and dim objects that can’t see the smaller network telescopes PAN-STARRS and other participants IAWN.

«Experience with NEOWISE showed that the launch of the space infrared telescope, able to track even for the most dim asteroids would greatly help in the discovery of other asteroids of average size and in search of the countless objects of similar size to the Chelyabinsk meteorite. We are now discussing these plans with our international partners,» explained Johnson.

As the scientist noted in an interview with RIA Novosti, he does not exclude the participation of Russia and other space powers in the missions, like the DART, if they have the financial ability and political willingness to adhere to current NASA plans.