Asteroid approaches Earth 20 times bigger than Chelyabinsk Meteor

There could be up to 10 million asteroids and meteors in the Solar System, which are 15 meters and more in diameter, and only 10,000 have been detected so far, says Anatoly Zaitsev, the General Director of the Citadel Project at the Planetary Security Center.

At the end of October Russian astronomers discovered a new cosmic body, which became known as asteroid 2014 UR116. It is 20 times larger than the Chelyabinsk meteorite. The cosmic body’s trajectory will run near Venus and Mars, and there is a possibility that its path will shift towards our planet.

According to -Denis Denisenko, an astronomer at Moscow State University’s Astronomical Institute said: “We estimate that in the next six years it will not collide with Earth. The uncertainty of its position in space during the next encounter with Earth in October 2017 is calculated to be 1.8 million kilometers, but it is still impossible to predict the date or even the approximate place where 2014 UR116 might hit Earth but the asteroid’s future encounter with Mars and Venus, can substantially change its orbit.”

Denisenko: “Asteroids of this size (about 370 meters long) are capable of causing a catastrophe, but not the end of humanity.”

Now, leading scientists and astronomers join and they are calling for more action to prevent a devastating asteroid strike.

The first stage in creating an international system for protecting the Earth from unwanted newcomers – the emergency-response stage – could be implemented within five to seven years, provided there is the political will, since we have all the necessary technologies, says Zaitsev.

Twenty organizations from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are taking part in Citadel Project. The project involves the creation of a space observation and detection segment, two regional planetary-security centers, as well as reconnaissance and interception services.

The space segment will detect potentially dangerous objects on remote approaches to the Earth and will send to them a spy vehicle to clarify their trajectory. Then it will trigger an interceptor vehicle carrying a nuclear explosive device.

The interceptor is expected to weigh 4 tonnes and deliver a nuclear charge of 2 megatonnes. Before the conflict started in Ukraine, the plan had involved the use of Zenit carrier rockets.

“The simulation conducted in Snezhinsk showed that an asteroid with a 500-meter diameter could be destroyed by a distributed nuclear charge of 10 units, each with a 1-megatonne capacity and he reckons that prospective missile defense weapons could be used for regional protection against asteroids, but by now, the Emergency Situations Ministry has created a system for predicting possible asteroid impact sites, which will allow to warn the public about a potentially dangerous situation well beforehand” Zaitsev said.


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