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If a scary asteroid will actually strike Earth, here's how you'll know

'It becomes a national emergency event.'

6/13/2021 11:36:00 AM

'It becomes a national emergency event.'

'It becomes a national emergency event.'

(some 28 million miles) of Earth's orbit. The rocks of particular concern are labeled"potentially hazardous asteroids." This means they come within about five million miles of Earth. (For reference, the moon is on average some 238,855 miles away.)

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NASA has spotted a majority (over 90 percent) of the biggest boys, meaning rocks larger than one kilometer (0.6 miles), like theroughly six-mile-wide behemoththat wiped out the dinosaurs. Yet many dangerous rocks remain. Scientists estimate that two out of three NEOs wider than 460 feet — rocks at least around some three times larger than Tunguska — haven't been found, according to NASA's planetary defense office.

Even much smaller rocks, of more than some 30 feet (10 meters), are still threatening, as the surprise 56-foot (17-meter), proved.What will happen when a threatening rock is actually en route to Earth, and detected?The"rubble-pile" asteroid Bennu, which is taller than the Empire State Building, is considered a"potentially hazardous object."

Image: nasaThe warningsThere are generally two types of warnings: notification of a very close encounter and notification of a potential impact. For either of these, you'll know they're legitimate because"NASA has actually said something about it," said Johnson.

1. Close encounterA close encounter means a space rock isn't going to strike Earth, but NASA thinks it's still deserving of the public's attention, explained Johnson. It could be as small as a 30-foot (10-meter) rock, or it could be something bigger like Apophis. Other people might spot the close encounter of the rock (as all known NEO trajectories are

posted online) and then announce or publish news of the unsettling flyby earlier than NASA. But that's OK. The agency will take at least a few hours to verify such results."Our goal is not to be the first to announce something, but to be the ones that provide the best information available," explained Johnson.

2. Potential impactIf NASA detects a possible impact — something larger than around 30 feet across (10 meters) with a greater than one percent chance of hitting Earth — things get serious.Johnson's office willgive warning notificationsto NASA to provide the White House, Congress, and government agencies. Public warnings won't simply be in the form of a NASA press release, tweeted out and posted online."At that point the White House takes the lead on new information being released," said Johnson."It becomes a national emergency event," he added. FEMA would have to prepare for a disaster if an impact on U.S. soil were likely.

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NASA, however, won't be working alone. They'll share information with their close asteroid monitoring partners, like the European Space Agency and the UN-recognized(IAWN). (For this story, scientists at the IAWN didn't comment, but suggested we speak with NASA's Johnson.)

"It becomes a national emergency event."A crucial part of this process is telling the White House and other government leadership not only that an impact is likely (or possible), butwhat an impact will do.Many factors are at play, notably the size and composition of the object."Will it detonate in Earth's atmosphere, or make it closer to the ground?" asked NASA's Johnson."We can advise leadership as to what might be faced should the asteroid impact the planet."

Read more: Mashable »


If a scary asteroid will actually strike Earth, here's how you'll know'It becomes a national emergency event.' this is terrible news

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