Media Advisory: New Report Says That Space-Based Infrared Telescopes Should Be Used to Detect Near-Earth Asteroids

The likelihood of a large asteroid hitting Earth in any given year, or even over one's lifetime, is very small. However, the consequences of such a strike would be great. Detecting near-Earth objects (NEOs), determining their orbits, and estimating their mass is critical knowledge necessary to quantify their destructive potential.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of telescope capabilities in detecting NEOs and says that space-based infrared NEO survey telescopes are more effective than visible wavelength telescopes, provide diameter information that visible wavelength telescopes cannot provide, and do not cost significantly more than in-space visible wavelength telescopes. The report also says that if NASA develops a space-based infrared NEO survey telescope, it should also continue to fund both short- and long-term ground-based observations to refine estimates of the orbits and physical properties of NEOs, which helps to assess the risk they might pose to Earth.

DETAILS: Finding Hazardous Asteroids Using Infrared and Visible Wavelength Telescopes is available for immediate release. Media inquiries should be directed to the National Academies’ Office of News and Public Information; tel. 202-334-2138 or e-mail news@nas.edu.