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NASA launches Asteroid Watch website
DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW

Posted: July 30, 2009


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NASA have introduced a new website that will act as a central resource for information on near-Earth asteroids and comets.

The launch follows hot on the heels of last week's cometary (or asteroid) collision with Jupiter, fifteen years to the day since fragments of Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 smashed into the giant planet, highlighting the very real threat that impact events still pose to our Solar System today.

Asteroid Watch keeps you up to date on the world of asteroids and comets.

"Most people have a fascination with near-Earth objects (NEOs)," says Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "And I have to agree with them. I have studied them for over three decades and I find them to be scientifically fascinating, and a few are potentially hazardous to Earth. The goal of our website is to provide the public with the most up-to-date and accurate information on these intriguing objects."

Asteroid Watch is online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch and acts as a one-stop shop for all things asteroid and comet related – from information on the latest missions to study these fascinating objects to cutting edge scientific research. News about the latest discoveries and Earth approaches is also available via a downloadable widget, RSS and Twitter feed.

"This innovative new web application gives the public an unprecedented look at what's going on in near-Earth space," says Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Objects Observation program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, JPL's more technical website, that also plots the orbits of known Near-Earth Objects to determine their threat.

Asteroid Watch offers a downloadable widget that displays information on the next NEO encounters.

Detecting and tracking asteroids and comets that pass close to the Earth is vital in learning about the risks that our planet may face from such potentially hazardous objects. The last significant impact event to make its mark on the Earth was the Tunguska event in 1908. Although the offending object exploded in the skies above Siberia rather than directly strike the ground, the force of the explosion still devastated over 2,000 square kilometres of forest – a very different story would have been told had the event occurred over a densely populated city, and the Tunguska impactor was just a few tens of metres wide.

Of course, many smaller events have occurred since, and last year the detection of asteroid 2008 TC3, its tracking through the Earth's atmosphere and subsequent collection of meteoritic fragments set a precedent for the future of rapid near-Earth asteroid detection and follow up observation campaigns. Initiatives like the Near Earth Objects Observation program and Pan-STARRS (the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) will soon ensure that we are well acquainted with the local NEO population of objects down to about 300 metres wide, which is similar to the predicted size of the object that gave Jupiter its black eye last week.

Bookmark Asteroid Watch now to keep abreast of all the latest developments in NEO research!

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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