RIA Novosti: Scientists See Increased Asteroid Threat

Stylized Satellite View of Globe Highlighting Russian Impact Location for Meteor

WASHINGTON, November 8 (RIA Novosti) ­ Asteroid strikes like the one that occurred over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February are much more likely to happen than previously thought, scientists said in a report published in the scientific journal Nature.

A team of researchers studied two decades’ worth of data gathered by US government-run infrasound sensors positioned around the planet and discovered that 60 asteroids up to 20 meters (65 feet) in size had crashed into the planet’s atmosphere over the period ­­­ far more than had been previously thought.

Now scientists suggest that asteroids like the Chelyabinsk one ­ which was about 19 meters (62 feet) wide ­ could strike the planet every 20 or even 10 years, compared with an earlier estimate of once a century, according to the report, published Wednesday.

Speaking to the BBC, lead author Professor Peter Brown, from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, said an asteroid-warning system should be established.

“Having some sort of system that scans the sky almost continuously and looks for these objects just before they hit the earth, that probably is something worth doing,” he said.

“In the case of Chelyabinsk, a few days’ to a week’s warning would have been valuable.”

The findings come amid rising concern that asteroids pose a danger to the planet.

Next month the United Nations General Assembly is expected to establish an International Asteroid Warning Network for countries to share information about falling celestial bodies. It is also anticipated to call on the world’s space agencies to establish an advisory group to explore technologies for deflecting an asteroid, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

In September, the United States and Russia signed an agreement that listed several areas for potential nuclear-energy and security cooperation. The US Department of Energy subsequently noted “defense from asteroids” as one such area.