Ramping up Earth's defence against asteroids, reports have emerged on Wednesday, that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had recently tracked an asteroid racing toward Earth and blasted it in space, breaking it up into pieces in the atmosphere before it could cause any catastrophe.
On June 22, NASA had discovered a mysterious flash in Earth’s atmosphere over the Carribean Sea, as shared by the space agency. As per international news reports, the agency was alerted to the asteroid's presence when a lightning detector on a weather satellite spotted unusual activity.
After inspection, NASA revealed that the flash was actually caused by an asteroid speeding into our atmosphere. This asteroid was reportedly at 310,000 miles from Earth when it was spotted by NASA's planetary defence system.
Speaking about the space rock which was roughly 5 meters in size before it was blasted by NASA's defence system, David Farnocchia, a NASA scientist at the Center for Near Earth Object Studies said:
“If it had been bigger, the object could have caused some serious damage and we would have no warning of an imminent impact ‘Asteroids this size are far smaller than what we’re tasked to track,” to an international news agency.
Explaining how NASA's search program has enhanced, he added:
“They’re so small, they would not survive passing through our atmosphere to cause damage to Earth’s surface. But this event shows how capable our search programs are, even for objects of such small sizes."
As explained in its website, NASA established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) to manage its ongoing mission of planetary defense. Its main aim is to provide early detection of potentially hazardous objects (PHO) by predicting when they will come within 5 million miles of Earth’s orbit and if the size of the PHO is large enough (30 to 50 meters) to cause significant damage on Earth.
The system also tracks and characterizes PHOs, studies strategies and technologies for mitigating PHO impacts and plays a lead role in coordinating with the U.S. government planning for response to an actual impact threat.