The god of darkness flies to Earth


Article from "Echo of the Planet."

The National Academy of Sciences of the United States scored the alarm: the federal government has done little to prepare for the defense of the planet from harmful asteroids. In the recently released report, the academic said that while the majority of particularly large and dangerous space "Aliens" and watch the almost non-existent search for more "small" asteroids and comets.

And yet these objects can cause serious damage to the inhabitants of the planet, "- said one of the authors of the study, an astronomer at the University of Maryland Mike A'Hern. He recalled that in 2005 the U.S. Congress instructed the country's space agency HACA to prepare a plan for tracking asteroids colliding with the Earth which can lead to disastrous consequences. At the same time experts HACA reported their assessment: there are about 20,000 potentially hazardous celestial objects with a diameter greater than 140 meters. 90 percent of them are quite real find at least 2020, but the cost of this could add up to a billion dollars. In particular, the need to build a new ground-based telescope or put into orbit infrared observatory.

The White House, which was then headed by George W. Bush, has called forth the ideas were too costly. But lawmakers almost nothing to the fact about 4 million dollars that HACA from his 18-billion budget spends annually to "hunt" for asteroids.

According A'Herna, who came to power as long as the Obama administration is also in no hurry to seek funds from Congress to fund the program. Academics have included in its report recommendations.

As the official representative of HACA Lindley Johnson, despite a weak financial support of the program, the agency managed to detect about 6,000 asteroids with a diameter greater than 140 meters, including the largest — the number of 1036, reaching a diameter of 32 kilometers. They are dangerous in that they can explode at the entrance to the upper layers of the atmosphere. Calculations showed that the force of the explosion could reach the equivalent of 100 million tons of dynamite. If HACA were at least 300 million dollars, it would then be able to find most of the asteroids with a diameter of over 300 meters, Johnson assured.

Now, he added, HACA is closely monitoring five sites, the probability of collision with the Earth which more than a million to one. Among them, the asteroid Apophis, named after the ancient Egyptian god of darkness and having a diameter of 250 meters. He will fly in April 2029 by the Earth at a distance of 39.2 thousand kilometers. It can be seen with the naked eye, from North Africa and Asia. Earlier, U.S. scientists expressed the opinion that if the next turn in 2036 the chances of Apophis crashing into the Earth will be 1 to 45000. However, in October last year, forecasts have been revised. According to astronomer Steve Chesley of located in Pasadena, California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the likelihood of such a scenario is now estimated to be 1 in 250,000.

With specific regard to the development of measures to protect the planet from asteroids, then it is the federal government spends less than a million dollars a year, said A'Hern. You must plan the forces of civil defense in the event that if the Earth will direct object with a diameter of 50 to 75 meters, according to the scientist. His "intrusion" into the atmosphere will lead to high-altitude explosion, equal in nuclear power.

To reflect the same "attack" a large asteroid will need to create tools that can change the course of this celestial body or crush it. "The Pentagon's budget does not increase too, if you include it in the cost of such projects," — expressed the belief A'Hern.

Asteroids and comets kilometer in diameter hit the Earth about once in a million years. They can cause enormous damage to regional or cause a giant tsunami. And objects from more than 5 miles away and can threaten the very existence of life on the planet. An asteroid about the size crashed 65 million years ago to present the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Alexander Pakhomov
ITAR-TASS news agency, Washington, DC

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