PHASTT Asteroid Search Project Update

On September 30, 2013 by Mike

Well, we’re a few days into the project and it’s time for an update. The two PHASTT projects have developed well over the last couple of months and we are pleased to have launched our campaigns on Indiegogo.

  • A 50m object impacts Earth roughly every 1000 years.
  • A 50m object would create an impact crater about 1.5km in diameter
  • Small objects are far more numerous than the big ones. We’ve discovered most NEOs bigger than 1km, about 20% greater than 100m-140m but only a small fraction (~3700)  of the possibly millions smaller than 100m.
Size distribution of discovered NEA. Note how few smaller objects have been discovered. Most of the objects greater than 1km have been discovered while only about 20% of those larger than 100m have been found. Only a small fraction of those smaller than 100m have been found. Image credit: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/

Size distribution of discovered NEA. Note how few smaller objects have been discovered. Most of the objects greater than 1km have been discovered while only about 20% of those larger than 100m have been found. Only a small fraction of those smaller than 100m have been found. Image credit: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/stats/

Throughout the campaign, we use the terms ‘Potentially Hazardous Asteroid’ (PHO). This refers to any asteroid in the solar system that is greater than about 100-150m in diameter and whose orbit comes within 7.5 million km of intersection with the Earth’s orbit. The more general term ‘Potentially Hazardous Object’ (PHO) includes all objects in the solar system that meet these criteria. At present, there are thought to be about 3200-6200 PHOs. Roughly 20% of these have been discovered.

It is the PHO population that we’re most interested in. But it’s not just the PHOs (bigger than 100m-150m) that we want to find and characterize. We also want to image the smaller objects which don’t, strictly speaking, meet the size criteria for PHOs. These smaller objects should be more abundant then their bigger cousins, but, if they impacted Earth they could still do considerable damage (destroy a small city, for example).

The term ‘Near-Earth Object’ is used to refer to any object whose orbit brings it within ‘proximity’ of Earth. PHOs are thus a subset of NEO since they have stricter criteria on their orbit definition. Roughly 10,000 such objects have been discovered with many more remaining to be discovered.

Thanks for taking a look at the PHASTT projects and, please, support us if you can. Every little bit helps us on our way to finding these small but potentially damaging objects in space!

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