STATES CHRONICLE – Scientists from NASA argued that not only asteroids but also comets may jeopardize the safety of our planet, being able to create a catastrophe. Policymakers should find a solution for this kind of threat. Joseph Nuth, who is a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has claimed that scientists together with authorities need to develop a plan to combat an approaching comet, destroying it before hitting Earth.
On December 12, during the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Nuth argued that usually comets were never considered to pose a threat, being ignored by people who are interested in protecting our planet. He also stated that people are more likely to ignore comets because their perception is that these celestial objects cannot be spotted or tracked very easy. On the other hand, Nuth argues that there is something that can be done to change the course of events in case of danger.
Scientists need to be sufficiently prepared for any impact. We all know that asteroids represent a greater risk since they are common in the space near Earth’s atmosphere compared to comets. Thus, asteroids account for the majority of threats. What is more, Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) can easily be detected than comets are.
The orbits of NEA are approximately similar to the one of Terra’s orbit. On the other hand, comets are usually located in the dark depths of our solar system. Mainly, astronomers’ chances to spot comets are very slight. It would be tough for scientists to detect and track the before they may impact our planet. For example, Halley’s comet surrounds the sun once every 75 years.
Nuth argued that comets are hard to be predicted because they usually appear out of nowhere, without giving us the chance to protect somehow. To give us a closer view upon the matter, Nuth talked about Comet Siding Spring, a celestial object that was revealed back in January 2013. After a few months, on October 2014, the comet in question had hit Mars, heading towards it within 140,000 kilometers.
Thus, he believes that unpleasant surprises are more likely to happen due to comets and not NEAs. If their plan is to launch a spacecraft to announce them whenever a comet is approaching, the launch of such a rover will take about five years. What is more, scientists need to be aware that the average comet is bigger than a typical NEA.
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