NASA NEO Surveyor

NASA NEO Surveyor, Protecting Earth from Dangerous Asteroids

cosmos science

By the way, the last catastrophic extinction on Earth occurred 66 million years ago. However, such an incidence will not occur now and cannot be claimed. Because a large body from space passes close to the Earth every week, any large body from space can approach and collide at any time. However, a giant asteroid colliding with another large body has the potential to cause massive catastrophe on Earth, as it did 66 million years ago. As a result, NASA is preparing for the Near-Earth Object Surveyor (NASA NEO Surveyor) mission to deal with such a circumstance.

Fortunately, NASA and other space organisations are developing experiments to deflect near-Earth objects (NEOs) on their way to Earth. But before we can stop them, we must first locate them. The United States Congress directed NASA in 2005 to locate 90% of the estimated 25,000 NEOs greater than 140 metres – the size threshold at which an object may level an entire city. The deadline was set for 2020. So far, we’ve only discovered 37%. At our present detection rate, meeting this goal will take more than 30 years.

How big a body can be harmful?

NASA’s mission will keep a watch out for asteroids or meteors that are 140 metres or larger. Smaller bodies than this frequently end up burning owing to friction as soon as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. However, if the body is larger than this, crashing on the earth’s surface can be devastating.

Detailed information on bodies

The NEO Surveyor will take exact measurements of rocks in space to learn about their composition, size, rotational location, and orbit. JPL stated in a statement that after five years of surveying, NEO Surveyor will have identified more than 90% of all such objects greater than 140 metres.

What does NASA NEO Surveyor do?

Ground-based telescopes are now the major way of detecting NEOs, however, they have limits. They can’t hurt while it’s raining, and there aren’t enough in the southern hemisphere. Furthermore, because they cannot monitor the sky during the day, numerous objects approaching the Sun typically go unnoticed. What is the solution? Place a space telescope between Earth and the Sun and scan areas of space that are difficult to see from Earth.

This is the driving force behind NASA’s Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission, NEO Surveyor. NEO Surveyor might launch as early as 2026 and accomplish Congress’s target of discovering 90% of near-Earth objects 140 metres or larger within ten years. Finding and analysing these objects will not only help us determine if any are on their way to Earth, but will also provide the framework for survey and deflection missions if one is discovered.

How does NASA NEO Surveyor work?

NEO Surveyor will dock at the Sun-Earth L1 point, which is 1.5 million kilometres (930,000 miles) from Earth and where the gravitational pulls of the Sun and Earth balance each other out, allowing spacecraft to stay there eternally without expending much fuel. NEO Surveyor will gaze ahead and behind Earth’s orbital path from here, identifying asteroids that we would otherwise miss due to the Sun’s glare.

The NEO Surveyor telescope has a diameter of 50 centimetres. Its camera detects objects at infrared wavelengths, which are invisible to human vision. Because asteroids are incredibly dark and difficult to discern against the blackness of space, infrared light is ideal for revealing heat signatures. They glow in infrared light because they heat up in the Sun and re-radiate that heat back into space. 

NEO Surveyor outperforms NASA’s existing asteroid-hunting satellite telescope, NEOWISE. NEOWISE was launched in 2009 as an astrophysics project before being reconfigured as an asteroid hunter in 2013. Despite having detected hundreds of asteroids, NEOWISE is not optimised for the job in the manner that NEO Surveyor will be. NEOWISE has a smaller telescope mirror and orbits Earth, limiting its search possibilities. Its orbit is currently shifting to the point where it will be impossible to study asteroids without stray light entering the telescope shortly.